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The emotion regulation strategies that employees use to deal with the emotional demands of the job have been shown to influence well-being, both positively and negatively. In particular, studies show that surface acting strategies (i.e., expressing an emotion you do not feel) have a negative effect on well-being.  Most studies assert that this occurs because the effort involved in surface acting depletes energy reserves, leaving employees feeling tired and worn out.

In this seminar I will present two studies which suggest that the negative effects of surface acting are not just due to the effort involved but are also due to employee perceptions of distributive justice, which is the assessment the employee makes of the appropriateness of the ratio between what is invested and what is received during interaction with clients.  In addition, I argue that the effects of surface acting may be due to the explanation the individual gives about the need to regulate their emotions, i.e., the attribution of responsibility for the client's behaviours that cause the employee to engage in surface acting.

Taking into account factors such as attributions and distributive justice gives a more complete understanding of how emotional regulation occurs in social contexts. This perspective answers questions of theoretical and practical relevance, beyond the purely individual level. For example:

  • Does emotional exhaustion depend on the amount of resources consumed by superficial action or, also, on the degree to which the employee considers that it has been reasonable to spend those resources?
  • Should organizations develop display rules that do not continuously generate disadvantageous exchange situations for the employee?
  • If it is not possible to modify the display rules, should the organizations explicitly contribute to restore the perception of distributive justice after surface acting interactions by explicitly recognizing the effort made?


Dr. David Martinez Íñigo.

David is an Associate Professor in the Methodology of Behavioural Sciences at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Spain. His research focuses on the study of the impact of emotions and their regulation on well-being in work contexts. David has developed several projects on the impact of emotional demands on emotional exhaustion in different health professionals (GP, mental health professionals), including interventions emotional regulation training.

David’s is also interested in the application of new technologies to obtain data of high momentary ecological validity. From the Laboratory of Momentary Ecological Evaluation of Behavior and Social Interaction, we have developed system for experience sampling, based on smartphones, capable of delivering self-report measures from temporary events, participant responses or indoor geolocation.

Another of David’s professional interests has to do with international cooperation in R&D. Between 2009 and 2013 he led the project for the creation of a research center in Occupational Health Psychology at the University of the Republic of Uruguay.