Useful and Affordable? How Costs and Benefits Uniquely Shape Motivated Emotion Regulation

Danfei Hu, Karen Gasper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People are motivated to experience negative emotions that have high utility (i.e., something that is useful and affordable). Researchers interested in understanding the motivation to feel negative have assessed how the benefits of negative emotions render them useful, but have not assessed the costs nor the affordability of these emotions. To fill this gap, across five online studies, we examined the hypothesis that the costs and benefits of anger both alter people’s perceived usefulness of anger, albeit in opposite directions; while costs, more so than benefits, shape people’s perceived affordability of anger. In Studies 1a and 1b (N = 247 and 226), we independently manipulated the hedonic costs and instrumental benefits of anger, measured people’s perceived usefulness of anger, and assessed outcomes of motivated emotion regulation (e.g., emotional preferences and experienced emotions). As predicted, the costs and benefits associated with anger independently influenced motivated emotion regulation through the perceived usefulness of anger. Studies 2a–2c (N = 340, 336, and 320) replicated and extended Study 1 by testing whether affordability, in addition to usefulness, was another underlying mechanism of motivated emotion regulation. Confirming the hypothesis that costs and benefits were unique determinants of motivated emotion regulation, the costs of anger, more so than its benefits, influenced perceived affordability, which in turn, shaped subsequent motivated emotion regulation. These findings expand our understanding of motivated emotion regulation by revealing how costs independently determine not only whether an emotion is useful, but also uniquely influence whether one can afford the emotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-326
Number of pages12
JournalMotivation Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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