Becoming popular: Interpersonal emotion regulation predicts relationship formation in real life social networks

Karen Niven, David Garcia, Ilmo Van Der Lowe, David Holman and Warren Mansell

Frontiers in Psychology (2015)


Building relationships is crucial for satisfaction and success, especially when entering new social contexts. In the present paper, we investigate whether attempting to improve others’ feelings helps people to make connections in new networks. In Study 1, a social network study following new networks of people for a twelve - week period indicated that use of interpersonal emotion regulation (IER) strategies predicted growth in popularity, as indicated by other network members’ reports of spending time with the person, in work and non - work interactions. In Study 2, linguistic analysis of the tweets from over 8000 Twitter users from formation of their accounts revealed that use of IER predicted greater popularity in terms of the number of followers gained. However, not all types of IER had positive effects. Behavioral IER strategies (which use behavior to reassure or comfort in order to regulate affect) were associated with greater popularity, while cognitive strategies (which change a person’s thoughts about his or her situation or feelings in order to regulate affect) were negatively associated with popularity. Our findings have implications for our understanding of how new relationships are formed, highlighting the important the role played by intentional emotion regulatory processes.