Talking about others: Emotionality and the dissemination of social information

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Abstract

There is evidence that we may be more likely to share stories about other people to the extent that they arouse emotion. If so, this emotional social talk may have important social consequences, providing the basis for many of our social beliefs and mobilising people to engage or disengage with the targets of the talk. Across three studies, we tested the situated communicability of emotional social information by examining if the ability of emotionality to increase communicability would depend on the emotion that was aroused and the identity of the audience. Study 1 showed that participants were more willing to share social anecdotes that aroused interest, surprise, disgust and happiness with an unspecified audience. Study 2 provided a behavioural replication of these findings. Study 3 showed that the communicability of emotional social talk did vary with audience identity (friend or stranger). Together, these findings suggest that emotional social events (particularly those that arouse disgust and happiness) are likely to become part of a society's social beliefs, with important consequences for the structure of social relationships. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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