Emotion is for influence: Development and test of a new theory
04 / 2010 - 03 / 2015
Social influence is everywhere, and it is often an emotional activity. A homeless person may express sadness in the hopes of extracting change from shoppers. A colleague may smile when asking a favor. A manager may express anger to force workers to be punctual. Yet, despite decades of research on social influence, we know little about the role of emotion. In particular, there is no theoretical framework and no empirical research on the interpersonal effects of emotions?when and how one person's emotional expressions engender social influence in others. This is unfortunate if we consider how often people use their emotions to influence other people's attitudes, judgments, and behaviors?whether deliberately or inadvertently, in politics, propaganda, in close relationships, or at work. I will remedy this lack of understanding by developing and testing a new theory of the interpersonal effects of emotions in social influence. Extending the recent Emotions as Social Information (EASI) model (Van Kleef, in press), I propose that emotional expressions wield social influence by providing information and/or by eliciting affective reactions in targets, depending on several moderators. This new theory will be further developed and tested in three projects that explore the interpersonal effects of emotions in three core domains of social influence. Project 1 focuses on attitude change, exploring how one person's emotional expressions affect another's attitudes. Project 2 focuses on compliance and obedience, examining how emotional expressions paired with a request influence a target's compliance with the request. Project 3 focuses on conformity in groups, investigating how group members' emotional expressions shape individuals' conformity to the group's position. Using a multi-method approach and exploring different social settings, this research program may answer fundamental questions about the functionality of emotion in social life and provide practical insights regarding how to use emotion to exert social influence.