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Our ability to recognize the emotional states of others, particularly non-verbally, is essential for meaningful social interactions and interpersonal relationships. Some people are more attuned and sensitive to nonverbal displays of emotions than others and this difference appears to have an impact on our response to and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent study published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science surveyed people from Germany, Switzerland, and Australia (N = 469) within the first two weeks of lockdown. Participants completed an emotion recognition task and were asked about their current emotional wellbeing and responses to COVID-19 related media coverage. They found that an ability to correctly recognize the emotions of others through facial expressions and sounds was associated with fewer negative emotions and less emotional burden during the shutdown. Greater emotion recognition did not predict more positive feels, simply less negative feelings. Furthermore, the relationship was mediated by the amount of COVID-19 related media a person consumed; that is, people with higher emotional recognition abilities consumed less COVID news, which led them to feel less negative. Those who weren’t as good at recognizing nonverbal emotions in others still felt less negatively if they adapted certain emotion regulation strategies, like reappraising their situation.
The takeaway: Knowing how you respond to others might help you figure out the right coping strategies for you during this period of social isolation.
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