Behavioural, affective, and physiological effects of negative and positive emotional exaggeration

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Emotion regulation is essential for the production of socially appropriate affect and successful interpersonal functioning. The relative inability to modulate affect, known as "emotional dysregulation", is associated with many common mood disorders (such as major depressive disorder or bipolar spectrum disorders). Thus, understanding the physiological processes underlying emotional regulation is extremely important. This experiment was designed to explore the affective, behavioural, and physiological responses associated with a rarely studied emotion regulation technique--exaggeration. A total of 52 undergraduate participants watched a 2 minute video designed to elicit either feelings of amusement (positive affect) or disgust (negative affect). Physiological recordings--including skin conductance, interbeat interval (IBI), high frequency (HF) power spectrum of heart rate variability (HRV), and sympathovagal balance (LF/HF)--were recorded for the 2 minutes prior to, during, and after mood induction. As expected, persons asked to exaggerate their responses were rated as behaviourally showing increased arousal relative to individuals in the natural-watch condition. With regard to IBI, those in the exaggerate condition experienced significantly greater IBI reductions (increased heart rate) during reactivity and IBI increases during recovery relative to those in the natural-watch condition (who showed the opposite pattern of response). Moreover, persons in the exaggerate condition evidenced increased sympathovagal balance in response to the emotional videos relative to those in the natural-watch condition. Results generally support and extend previous research findings designed to assess the impact of response-focused affect modulation strategies. Suggestions for future research are presented.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA 2: East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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