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Abstract

Emotions play an important role in coordinating social life. In the last decade, traditional research on the intrapersonal effects of emotions has been complemented by a growing focus on interpersonal effects. I propose that a primary function of emotion at this interpersonal level is to disambiguate social interaction by providing information about the expresser’s feelings, goals, motives, and intentions. Building on this idea, I introduce the emotions as social information (EASI) model. The model posits that emotional expressions influence observers by eliciting affective reactions in them and/or by triggering inferential processes, depending on the observer’s information processing motivation and ability and on social-contextual factors. I discuss implications of this view for theorizing about the social functions of emotions; the evolution of emotion; the influence of emotional expressivity, emotion recognition, and emotion regulation; and the role of culture.