Negative emotion in romantic relationships predicts change in partner attributions, appraisal of issue importance, and communication behavior during relationship conflict.
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This study investigated the function of hard, soft, and flat emotion in 67 undergraduate dating couples engaged in romantic relationship conflict. The primary objective of this study was to investigate associations among these three types of negative emotion and the attributions, appraisals, and communication behavior of romantic partners during relationship conflict. Hard emotion predicted increases in negative partner attributions and negative communication behavior while predicting decreases in positive communication. Soft emotion predicted increases in the appraisal of issue importance. Flat emotion, a less extensively studied emotion in the couples' therapy literature, predicted decreases in men's self-rated positive communication. A secondary objective of this study was to experimentally induce hard and soft emotion to determine whether emotion can be manipulated to effect immediate change in cognition and behavior. Given the inefficacy of the manipulation induction task used in this study, testing subsequent hypotheses related to this second objective was not feasible. However, the utility of a theory of emotion as a feedback system in couples' research is discussed.