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The fading affect bias: Effects of social disclosure to an interactive versus non-responsive listener

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The intensity of negative emotions associated with event memories fades to a greater extent over time than positive emotions (fading affect bias or FAB). In this study, we examine how the presence and behaviour of a listener during social disclosure influences the FAB and the linguistic characteristics of event narratives. Participants recalled pleasant and unpleasant events and rated each event for its emotional intensity. Recalled events were then allocated to one of three experimental conditions: no disclosure, private verbal disclosure without a listener or social disclosure to another participant whose behaviour was experimentally manipulated. Participants again rated the emotional intensity of the events immediately after these manipulations and after a one-week delay. Verbal disclosure alone was not sufficient to enhance the FAB. However, social disclosure increased positive emotional intensity, regardless of the behaviour of the listener. Whilst talking to an interactive listener led unpleasant event memories to decrease in emotional intensity, talking to a non-responsive listener increased their negative emotional intensity. Further, listener behaviour influenced the extent of emotional expression in written event narratives. This study provides original evidence that listener behaviour during social disclosure is an important factor in the effects of social disclosure in the FAB.
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Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Emotional intensity; Fading affect bias; LIWC; Social interaction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Publication date: August 18, 2015

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