Emotional climate How is it shaped, fostered, and changed? Darío páez, agustín espinosa, anD magDaLena BoBowik
Emotional climate: what does it mean and what purpose does it serve? ECs refer to predominant collective emotions perceived as shared by members of social groups, such as national communities or ethnic minorities. The term also reflects how an individual thinks that most of the people feel about their ingroup’s situation. Unlike emotional atmospheres, which depend on group members focusing on a particular event, ECs involve relationships among them. ECs can be expressed as perceptions of collective and interpersonal feelings: fear, used
by dictatorships to ensure order; trust, essential to the formation of social capital; security, provided by adequate attention to human rights; or anger and despair, aroused by pervasive corruption. The key to understanding ECs are the dominant emotions perceived in others (De Rivera and Páez, 2007). ECs are socially constructed, yet simultaneously objective, because they exist independently of an individual’s personal feelings (De Rivera and Páez, 2007; De Rivera, 1992). That is, emotions which people sense in others have distinct consequences in contrast to own emotional experience. For instance, individuals tend to feel more positive than negative intergroup emotions, particularly toward the ingroup. However, at times, members of a low-status group perceive more negative than positive emotions toward their ingroup. This perception is often shared by the outgroup. Indeed, research has revealed that Basques perceive hostility towards their ingroup, and this perception is shared by Andalusians-see Table 1 (Techio, Zubieta, Páez et al., 2011). Importantly, EC serves as a psychosocial context that influences behavior (Bar-Tal, Halperin and De Rivera, 2007). The way people behaved after the terrorist attack on Madrid in March 2004 was associated with their perception of the EC. Even controlled for personal emotions, perception of negative EC predicted avoidance of outgroups (e.g., Muslims). In turn, perception of positive EC explained altruistic behavior (De Rivera and Páez, 2007). EC also acts as a context that influences social beliefs. Research has demonstrated that the stronger the perception of positive EC after the March 2004 bombing, the higher the perception of interpersonal and collective positive reactions to trauma (e.g., post-traumatic growth as index of positive social beliefs). Finally, EC influences personal emotions: perceiving positive EC one week after an event predicts individual positive affect three weeks after the event (Rimé, Páez, Basabe, and Martínez, 2009).