Emotion dynamics vary considerably from individual to individual and from group to group. Successful social interactions require people to track this moving target in order to anticipate the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. In two studies, we test whether people track others’ emotional idiosyncrasies to make accurate, target-specific emotion predictions. In both studies, participants predicted the emotion transitions of a specific target — either a close friend (Study 1) or a first-year college roommate (Study 2) — as well as an average group member. Results demonstrate that people can make highly accurate predictions both for specific individuals and specific groups. Accurate predictions rely on target-specific knowledge; new community members were able to make accurate predictions at zero-acquaintance, but accuracy increased over time as individuals accrued specialized knowledge. Results also suggest that accurate emotion prediction is associated with social success in both individual and communal relationships and that such a relation might emerge over time. Overall, our studies suggest that people accurately make individualized predictions of others’ emotion transitions and that doing so fulfills a meaningful function in the social world.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Close relationships
- Social cognition
- Social prediction
- Social success