2015 IPFW Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium



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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jay Jackson


Department of Psychology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne


MAJOR PURPOSE: We examined how personality and the social context influenced participants’ emotional reactions to fearful and non-fearful situations. Drawing from socialfunctional theories of emotions, we expected participants to have stronger emotional reactions to a fearful situation when the experience was shared vs. not shared. We further expected personality to moderate this effect, such that those high in anxiety and neuroticism would be less influenced by the social context and those high in extraversion would be more influenced by the social context. Finally, we expected attentiveness to conditionally mediate the relationship between the fearful situation and emotional reactions.

PROCEDURE: Participants (N=133) completed the Big 5 Aspects Scale and a measure of social anxiety before playing a scary or non-scary video game, either alone or with a co-actor (another participant playing the same video game). Participants then completed measures of attentiveness, fear, hostility, joviality, self-assurance, and general positive and negative affect (from the PANAS-X). The data were analyzed using analysis of variance, regression analyses, and tests of conditional indirect effects.

RESULTS: An ANOVA with Fear as the DV produced the expected 2-way game-type x socialsetting interaction, F (1, 122) = 4.60, p = .034. Participants expressed greater fear after playing the scary (vs. non-scary) game and this fear response was significantly amplified when the experience was shared (vs. not shared). The same 2-way interaction was obtained with Joviality as the DV, F (1, 129) = 8.48, p = .004. Participants were more jovial after playing the scary game if the experience was shared. We mean-centered the personality variables and examined their interactions with the manipulated variables. We obtained a 3-way social anxiety*gametype* social setting interaction on Fear, B = .120, SE=.047, p = .011, and on Joviality, B = .111, SE=.054, p = .042. We also obtained a 3-way extraversion*game-type*social setting interaction on Joviality, B = .210, SE=.060, p = .001. The pattern of results were consistent with our predictions. Our attentiveness hypothesis received partial support.

CONCLUSIONS: The results support social-functional models of emotions. Participants’ emotions were clearly influenced by the social context. However, consistent with our interactionist perspective, our findings also highlight the importance of considering personality characteristics, along with social psychological processes, when predicting people’s emotional reactions to situations. Our findings have theoretical and practical implications and may serve to stimulate additional empirical studies.


Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Social and Personality Influence on Emotions