How Does the Comforting Process Work? An Empirical Test of an Appraisal-Based Model of Comforting


Susanne M. Jones; e-mail:


Burleson and Goldsmith’s (1998) comforting model suggests an appraisal-based mechanism through which comforting messages can bring about a positive change in emotional states. This study is a first empirical test of three causal linkages implied by the appraisal-based comforting model. Participants (N = 258) talked about an upsetting event with a confederate trained to display low, moderate, or high levels of person centeredness and nonverbal immediacy. After the conversation, participants completed several scales. Latent composite structural equation modeling was used to examine the model, which showed that person-centered and immediate emotional support exerted a direct effect on emotional improvement. Above and beyond this direct effect, person-centered comfort also encouraged people to verbalize their thoughts and emotions. These verbalizations facilitated cognitive appraisals, which in turn exerted a strong direct effect on emotional improvement. Mediation analyses further suggested that verbalizations of positive emotion words in conjunction with reappraisals partially mediated the influence of person-centered comfort on emotional improvement.