The literature reviewed so far clearly indicates a similar processing dynamic between high RS and BP. Moreover, recent theoretical models and empirical evidence in cognitive and neurobiological approaches indicate a significant association between BP disorder and difficulties in the higher order frontal control of cognitive representation, emotion, and behavioral inhibition. No study to date, to our knowledge, however, has tested the hypothesis that high RS and problems in EC interactively predict increased risk for BP features. The goal of the current research was to test this moderation hypothesis. Specifically, we reasoned that despite the overlap in important characteristics of RS and BP, not everybody who fears and expects rejection should be equally vulnerable to developing BP features. We hypothesized that to the extent that RS individuals are high in EC, the link between RS and BP features should be attenuated. For these individuals, EC should enable them to override prepotent habitual thought patterns (e.g., interpreting ambiguous cues as intentional rejection) and to inhibit dominant and maladaptive behavioral tendencies (e.g., defensive reactions when they do perceive rejection).
Several lines of theorizing and evidence are consistent with this moderation hypothesis. In previous research (Ayduk et al., 2000
), we examined children’s ability to delay gratification (i.e., minutes waited for a larger, preferred delayed outcome in favor an immediately available but smaller, less preferred reward) in the classic preschool delay of gratification paradigm (see Mischel, Shoda & Rodriguez, 1989
for review) as a protective factor against high RS. An extensive literature shows that performance in the classic delay task in preschool taps into a general competency to disengage attention from emotional information that typically induces a here-and-now mindset and to override automatic responses in favor of more contemplative behaviors that consider long-term consequences (see Mischel & Ayduk, 2004
for review). Our findings indicated that high RS was related to low self-esteem and ineffective coping at age 28 only among participants who had difficulty delaying gratification at age 4 (Ayduk et al., 2000
, Study 1). Likewise, we found that high RS middle school children showed lower self-esteem and more impaired social functioning (e.g., aggression, peer rejection) than low RS children to the extent that they were less able to delay gratification (Ayduk et al., 2000
; Study 2).
Similar to the moderation hypothesis proposed here, Judd (2005)
has also argued that neurocognitive impairment (either genetic or acquired abnormalities in brain functioning) exacerbates the negative effect of insecure attachment on metacognitive processes such as self-reflection and perspective taking, which are some of the key mechanisms impaired in BP disorder.