EASI lab takes a uniquely social approach to emotion. Moving beyond the question of how our emotions influence our own thinking and behavior, we explore how one person’s emotions influence the feelings, thoughts, and actions of others.
Such emotional influence is omnipresent. Through our emotional expressions we continuously influence other people in our social environment—whether deliberately or inadvertently, in politics, propaganda, in close relationships, or at work. Thus 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. A father may express pride to reinforce the desired behavior of his daughter.
EASI lab is dedicated to understanding such emotional influence. Much of our research is guided by Emotions as Social Information (EASI) theory (Van Kleef, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2016; Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2010; Van Kleef, Homan, & Cheshin, 2012; Van Kleef, Van Doorn, Heerdink, & Koning, 2011). A key assumption of this theory is that social life is ambiguous. People therefore turn to others’ emotions to inform their own actions. Emotional expressions shape behavior and regulate social life by eliciting affective reactions in targets (e.g., reciprocal emotions, sentiments about the expresser) and by triggering inferential processes (e.g., inferences about the source, meaning, and implications of the expresser’s emotion). The relative strength of the two processes depends on the target’s information processing and on social-contextual factors. We continuously refine and expand the theory based on our empirical work, and our updated theoretical insights in turn inform our research.
In our quest to understand the social nature of emotion, we compare the effects of discrete emotions such as anger, sadness, disappointment, guilt, regret, happiness, and pride in a variety of contexts (listed below). Most of our research is experimental, employing a wide array of cutting-edge methodology to shed light on all aspects of emotional influence (e.g., behavioral observation, physiological data, eye-tracking, self-report and peer-report data, and objective performance outcomes). We complement this experimental work with (longitudinal) field studies, using questionnaires and critical incidents methods to gain rich data about the role of emotion in people’s everyday social and work life.