ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (3): 500-510.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2017.00500

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Understanding emotional labor from a contingent perspective: A review on moderating variables and mechanisms

LIAO Huahua1,2; YAN Aimin2   

  1. (1 Department of Economics and Management, Changsha University, Changsha, 410022, China) (2 School of Business, Central South University, Changsha, 410083, China)
  • Received:2016-02-29 Online:2017-03-15 Published:2017-03-15
  • Contact: YAN Aimin, E-mail:


Exploration of moderators has been one of the major theoretical focus of emotional labor literature in recent years. Our review on the empirical studies indicated that a great variety of variables in three aspects—individual difference, job context and culture—had significant moderating effects on the effects of emotional labor. By taking a contingent perspective on emotional labor, we found that: (I) the display rules at organizational, industrial and cultural levels could exert different yet related influence on individual emotion expression in workplace; (II) the potential detrimental effect of surface acting could be possibly buffered, eradicated or even turned into positive one by means of either individual internal mechanism or organizational management intervention; (III) deep acting had a positive effect consistently across individuals and contexts; (IV) cultural context functioned as an important boundary condition for emotional labor process. It was revealed that both emotional labor requirements and regulation behaviors could possibly bring benefits to employees.

Key words: emotional labor, display rule, deep acting, surface acting, boundary condition