Sense or sensibility? Social sharers’ evaluations of socio-affective vs. cognitive support in response to negative emotions

<p>When in emotional distress, people often turn to others for social support. A general distinction has been made between two types of support that are differentially effective: Whereas socio-affective support temporarily alleviates emotional distress, cognitive support may contribute to better long-term recovery. In the current studies, we examine what type of support individuals seek. We first confirmed in a pilot study that these two types of support can be reliably distinguished. Then, in Study 1, we experimentally tested participants’ support evaluations in response to different emotional situations using a vignette methodology. Findings showed that individuals perceived any type of reaction that included socio-affective support as preferable. The evaluation of cognitive support, however, was dependent on the specific emotion: Unlike worry and regret, anger and sadness were characterised by a strong dislike for purely cognitive support. Using different materials, Study 2 replicated these findings. Taken together, the findings suggest that individuals evaluate different types of support in a way that is unlikely to benefit emotional recovery in the long run.</p>