Wanting to maximize the positive and minimize the negative: Implications for mixed affective experience in American and Chinese contexts

Tamara SIMS, Jeanne L. TSAI, Da JIANG, Yaheng WANG, Helene H. FUNG, Xiulan ZHANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticles

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated that European Americans have fewer mixed affective experiences (i.e., are less likely to experience the bad with the good) compared with Chinese. In this article, we argue that these cultural differences are due to “ideal affect,” or how people ideally want to feel. Specifically, we predict that people from individualistic cultures want to maximize positive and minimize negative affect more than people from collectivistic cultures, and as a result, they are less likely to actually experience mixed emotions (reflected by a more negative within-person correlation between actual positive and negative affect). We find support for this prediction in 2 experience sampling studies conducted in the United States and China (Studies 1 and 2). In addition, we demonstrate that ideal affect is a distinct construct from dialectical view of the self, which has also been related to mixed affective experience (Study 3). Finally, in Study 4, we demonstrate that experimentally manipulating the desire to maximize the positive and minimize the negative alters participants’ actual experience of mixed emotions during a pleasant (but not unpleasant or combined pleasant and unpleasant) TV clip in the United States and Hong Kong. Together, these findings suggest that across cultures, how people want to feel shapes how they actually feel, particularly people’s experiences of mixed affect. Copyright © 2015 American Psychological Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-315
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume109
Issue number2
Early online dateJun 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Citation

Sims, T., Tsai, J. L., Jiang, D., Wang, Y., Fung, H. H., & Zhang, X. (2015). Wanting to maximize the positive and minimize the negative: Implications for mixed affective experience in American and Chinese contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(2), 292-315. doi: 10.1037/a0039276

Keywords

  • Ideal affect
  • Culture
  • Chinese
  • Mixed emotions
  • Dialecticism

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