Supervisors: Professor Jüri Allik ja Senior Research Fellow Anu Realo
Opponent: Associate Professor Ulrich Schimmack, PhD, (University of Toronto, Mississauga, Canada)
Emotional experience is a complex phenomenon, because the brain is constantly processing sensory information from the world, somatic sensations, and prior knowledge about objects and situations to produce an affective state. The current dissertation is based on the assumption that a major factor in emotion generation is the way, how individuals evaluate and interpret situations, that they consider relevant. One of the strategies employed here is the experience sampling methodology, which enables us to measure emotions in their natural context. While the assessments take place in real time, the possibility of memory distortions is minimal. Many previous studies have emphasized, that people are rather inaccurate in remembering past episodes and emotional experiences. Likewise, the present results show that the overall emotionality of individuals significantly influences the vividness and intensity of their memory recollections. This dissertation also explores some intriguing questions, which in previous research have turned out to be controversial. For instance, it is examined if weather influences mood. Results indicate that weather does have an impact on affective states, but the effect sizes are nearly not as impressive as the popular belief would suggest. It is also investigated, whether people can feel happy and sad at the same time. The analyses show that under specific conditions it is indeed possible to experience these apparently opposite emotions simultaneously, though not in a very intensive form. Hereby, also the influence of personality dispositions is demonstrated, meaning that certain people tend to feel mixed emotions more than others. It is important to study both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, because they have an independent as well as a combined impact on how satisfied people are with their lives. However, this needs to be analyzed in a wider context, because the relative weight of emotions in life satisfaction judgments varies across countries and is influenced by some cultural factors. Finally, while comparing emotions cross-culturally, it is essential to explore the equivalence of measurement scales and even specific emotion words, because transferring these from one culture or language to the other is not always straightforward.