Display rules for kindness: Outcomes of suppressing benevolent emotions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research categorizing emotions according to the intrapersonal pleasure they elicit (e.g., happiness) suggests that suppression of positive emotions is inconsequential. The present research explores the hypothesis that, due to deeply held social norms, suppression of positive interpersonal emotions (e.g., compassion), as part of job requirements, may be undesirable. The first study presented service-related interactions that stimulated interpersonal emotions toward customers, and a request for a written response congruent with display rules of emotional suppression. The results indicated that suppressing benevolent emotions causes more discomfort than suppression of malevolent or neutral emotions. Responses also indicated less inclination to suppress benevolent emotions compared to malevolent or neutral emotions. Study 2, a field study, was of service employee–customer dyads. The results showed that withholding benevolent emotions is negatively related to customer satisfaction through the mediation of employee sense of inauthenticity, and that withholding malevolent emotions is directly and positively related to customer satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-166
Number of pages11
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Emotion
  • Emotional labor
  • Regulation
  • Service
  • Suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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