But are you really happy? The negativity effect in the inference of happiness and unhappiness

Hyunjin Song, Oscar Ybarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


This research examined whether people make correspondent inferences more readily for others' expression of unhappiness than happiness. Study 1 measured people's lay theory of the range of emotional expressions that happy and unhappy people enact. We found that people perceive that a person who is unhappy has a wider range of emotional expression than a person who is happy. Participants in Study 2 inferred that another's description of his or her own unhappy life was more revealing of that person's true attitudes and feelings than another's description of his or her own happy life. Following up on these findings, Study 3 showed that people's inferences regarding another's level of happiness were more affected by situational information when the person described a happy life compared to an unhappy life. Together, these three studies point to a negativity effect in person inference that also applies to the expression and communication of happiness and unhappiness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-65
Number of pages10
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Psychology

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