Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

2020 Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford


  • Philippe VerduynEmail author
  • Maxime Résibois
  • Karlijn Massar
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_550



Sadness is a negatively valenced emotion characterized by low arousal and considered one of the basic emotions.


Why are humans capable of experiencing negative emotions like sadness? An evolutionary perspective on emotions holds that the physiological, psychological, and behavioral characteristics of emotions should be seen as evolved features that have been useful to humans at some point during evolutionary history. In particular, individuals equipped with a genetic makeup that enabled them to experience certain emotions in response to specific stimuli or situations were better able to cope with and respond to recurring challenges and opportunities which, in turn, increased their reproductive success.

The evolutionary benefits of some emotions may seem more straightforward compared to those of other emotions. In particular, whereas one can readily see the benefits of emotions such as anger...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Barr-Zisowitz, C. (2000). “Sadness”—is there such a thing? In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (2nd ed., pp. 607–622). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  2. Forgas, J. P. (2003). Affective influences on attitudes and judgments. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H. Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences (pp. 596–618). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Izard, C. E., & Ackerman, B. P. (2000). Motivational, organizational, and regulatory functions of discrete emotions. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (2nd ed., pp. 253–264). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  4. Kreibig, S. D. (2010). Autonomic nervous system activity in emotion: A review. Biological Psychology, 84(3), 394–421.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.03.010.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Langner, O., Dotsch, R., Bijlstra, G., Wigboldus, D. H. J., Hawk, S. T., & van Knippenberg, A. (2010). Presentation and validation of the Radboud Faces Database. Cognition & Emotion, 24(8), 1377–1388.  https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930903485076.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Lindquist, K. A., Wager, T. D., Kober, H., Bliss-Moreau, E., & Barrett, L. F. (2012). The brain basis of emotion: A meta-analytic review. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35(3), 121–143.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X11000446.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Mikolajczak, M., Nelis, D., Hansenne, M., & Quoidbach, J. (2008). If you can regulate sadness, you can probably regulate shame: Associations between trait emotional intelligence, emotion regulation and coping efficiency across discrete emotions. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(6), 1356–1368.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2007.12.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Nesse, R. M. (1990). Evolutionary explanations of emotions. Human Nature, 1(3), 261–289.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02733986.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Scherer, K. R. (2003). Appraisal processes in emotion. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H. Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences (pp. 572–595). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Scherer, K. R., Johnstone, T., & Klasmeyer, G. (2003). Vocal expression of emotion. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H. Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences (pp. 433–456). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Sheppes, G., & Meiran, N. (2007). Better late than never? On the dynamics of online regulation of sadness using distraction and cognitive reappraisal. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(11), 1518–1532.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167207305537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Verduyn, P., & Brans, K. (2012). The relationship between extraversion, neuroticism and aspects of trait affect. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(6), 664–669.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2011.12.017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Verduyn, P., & Lavrijsen, S. (2015). Which emotions last longest and why: The role of event importance and rumination. Motivation and Emotion, 39(1), 119–127.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9445-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Verduyn
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Maxime Résibois
    • 2
  • Karlijn Massar
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Department of Work and Social PsychologyMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Section editors and affiliations

  • Monika Wróbel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of LodzLodzPoland