Why sadness lasts longer than other emotions

Posted on November 29, 2014

Staying positive can feel like an uphill battle. No wonder: when Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen asked over 200 high-school students (average age 17) to reminisce about the duration of their recent emotional experiences, they found that sadness had an unfortunate habit of lingering, more so than any of the other 26 emotions studied, including joy, pride and relief.

Indeed, the average duration of the episodes of sadness recalled by the students was 120 hours. At the other extreme, the most fleeting emotion was shame, which tended to last, on average, just half an hour. Surprise, fear, disgust, boredom, irritation and relief also tended to be short-lived. Joy managed a disappointing average duration of 35 hours. Contrast that with hatred, which averaged 60 hours. Focusing on pairs of the emotions that we usually see as related, guilt was found to last much longer than shame, and anxiety lasted longer than fear.

To find out why some emotions last longer than others, the researchers also asked the students about the events that precipitated their emotional experiences, and how they dealt with each emotional episode once it had started. A clear pattern emerged. More short-lived emotions were usually, though not always, preceded by an event of lesser importance to the participant, as compared with longer-lasting emotions.

Click on the link below to read the full article


Category(s):Depression

Source material from British Psychological Society


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