I hear you (not): sharers' expressions and listeners' inferences of the need for support in response to negative emotions
Cognition & Emotion
When in emotional distress, people often turn to others for support. Paradoxically, even when people perceive social support to be beneficial, it often does not result in emotional recovery. This paradox may be explained by the fact that the sharing process disproportionately centres on support that is not helpful in the long run. A distinction has been made between two types of support that are differentially effective: Whereas socio-affective support alleviates momentary emotional distress,
... otional distress, cognitive support fosters long-term recovery. But can listeners tell what support the sharer needs? The present study examines the hypothesis that sharers communicate their support goals by sharing in such a way that it allows listeners to infer the sharer's needs. In Experiment 1, we manipulated participants' support goals, and showed that socio-affective support goals led participants to express more emotions, whereas cognitive support goals resulted in greater use of appraisals. In Experiments 2 and 3, we tested whether these differential expressions would affect the support goals that listeners inferred. We found no evidence for such an effect: Listeners consistently perceived the sharer to predominantly want socio-affective support. These findings help explain why many social sharing instances revolve around socio-affective support, leading to subjectively experienced benefits, but not to genuine recovery.