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J Pers. 2006 Feb;74(1):9-46.

Emotions and interpersonal relationships: toward a person-centered conceptualization of emotions and coping.

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University of California, Berkeley, Berkely, CA, USA.


This essay describes my theory of emotions. I make a case for studying discrete emotions in the context of four processes that represent the central features of my theoretical system: appraising, coping, flow of actions and reactions, and relational meaning. I explain why coping is a key feature of the emotion process, and I discuss issues related to the measurement of coping and the importance of understanding coping processes in the context of personality and situational demands. I make the argument that emotions are best studied as narratives, and I offer one such narrative in the form of a case study to demonstrate how emotions can best be understood in the context of an interpersonal relationship and by considering individual differences, interpersonal transactions, and relational meaning. I conclude this essay with a caution that field specialization may interfere with our understanding of emotions and other psychological phenomena, and I underscore the virtues of ipsative-normative research designs as a way to move closer to a person-centered personality psychology.

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