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Emotional Convergence Within Classrooms: Selection and Influence Effects

Tue, April 12, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Convention Center, Floor: Level One, Room 150 A


The present research investigated whether the achievement emotions of students who are friends within a classroom become more similar over time. Our aim was to explore whether emotional similarity among friends is due to convergence of emotions over time or to social selection (students who experience similar emotions select each other as friends).

Theoretical framework. Prior studies indicate that people in close relationships become more similar in experiencing emotions over time (Anderson, Keltner, & John, 2003). These studies have focused on dyads such as romantic couples or roommates. Research investigating emotional convergence within social networks in educational settings is largely lacking.

In educational contexts, achievement emotions are especially important (Pekrun, 2006). We hypothesized that students in classrooms who are in close relationships, such as friendships, would be similar in their experience of achievement emotions. This may be due to similar individuals becoming friends (selection effects; Brechwald & Prinstein, 2011), but also due to friends becoming more similar to each other over time as considered by Anderson, Keltner, & John (2003). To distinguish between these different mechanisms, longitudinal analysis and the simultaneous examination of selection and influence processes was needed (Veenstra, Dijkstra, Steglich, & Van Zalk, 2013).

Research Questions. We investigated whether students become more similar in their emotional experience over time (convergence) or whether the experience of similar achievement emotions influences the choice of friends (selection).

Methods. We used a longitudinal dataset including two assessments of students’ achievement emotions and friendship networks at the beginning of the school year and six to eight weeks later. N = 411 students (46.72 % female) from 16 math classes (grade 7-10) completed the German version of the Achievement Emotions Questionnaire (Pekrun, Goetz, Frenzel, Barchfeld, & Perry, 2011). At each time point, students were further asked to rate each of their classmates on a 5-point Likert-scale with respect to how much they liked them (round-robin design). To simultaneously examine selection and convergence processes within classrooms, we used the Simulation Investigation for Empirical Network Analyses (RSIENA; Ripley, Snijders, Boda, Vörös, & Preciado, 2015).

Results. The analyses showed that students became significantly more similar in their experience of emotions over time (emotional convergence), but only with regard to the negative emotions anger, anxiety, and hopelessness, not with regard to positive emotions like enjoyment or pride.

Selection effects were not found for students experiencing similar emotions. But students who experience negative emotions nominated fewer classmates as friends. Furthermore, the results showed that gender is important for selecting friends in classrooms, indicating that students nominated same-sex classmates more often as their friends.

Discussion. Our results demonstrate that friends in classrooms become more similar in their experience of negative achievement emotions. However, the findings indicate that emotional convergence occurs for negative but not positive emotions. Future research should explore the mechanisms explaining convergence of achievement emotions in educational settings.