A facet of emotional resilience critical for adapting to adversity is flexible use of emotional resources. We hypothesized that in threatening situations, this emotional flexibility enables resilient people to use emotional resources during appropriately emotional events, and conserve emotional resources during innocuous events. We tested this hypothesis using functional magnetic resonance imaging in a repeated recovery from threat task with low- and high-trait resilient individuals (LowR and HighR, respectively, as measured by ER89). In an event-related design, 13 HighR and 13 LowR participants viewed ‘threat’ cues, which signaled either an aversive or neutral picture with equal probabilities, or ‘nonthreat’ cues, which signaled a neutral picture. Results show that when under threat, LowR individuals exhibited prolonged activation in the anterior insula to both the aversive and neutral pictures, whereas HighR individuals exhibited insula activation only to the aversive pictures. These data provide neural evidence that in threatening situations, resilient people flexibly and appropriately adjust the level of emotional resources needed to meet the demands of the situation.
resilience; anticipation; recovery; emotion regulation; neuroimaging; threat
Happiness – a composite of life satisfaction, coping resources, and positive emotions – predicts desirable life outcomes in many domains. The broaden-and-build theory suggests that this is because positive emotions help people build lasting resources. To test this hypothesis we measured emotions daily for one month in a sample of students (N=86) and assessed life satisfaction and trait resilience at the beginning and end of the month. Positive emotions predicted increases in both resilience and life satisfaction. Negative emotions had weak or null effects, and did not interfere with the benefits of positive emotions. Positive emotions also mediated the relation between baseline and final resilience, but life satisfaction did not. This suggests that it is in-the-moment positive emotions, and not more general positive evaluations of one’s life, that form the link between happiness and desirable life outcomes. Change in resilience mediated the relation between positive emotions and increased life satisfaction, suggesting that happy people become more satisfied not simply because they feel better, but because they develop resources for living well.
happiness; life satisfaction; ego-resilience; broaden and build
Theory indicates that resilient individuals “bounce back” from stressful experiences quickly and effectively. Few studies, however, have provided empirical evidence for this theory. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (B. L. Fredrickson, 1998, 2001) is used as a framework for understanding psychological resilience. The authors used a multimethod approach in 3 studies to predict that resilient people use positive emotions to rebound from, and find positive meaning in, stressful encounters. Mediational analyses revealed that the experience of positive emotions contributed, in part, to participants’ abilities to achieve efficient emotion regulation, demonstrated by accelerated cardiovascular recovery from negative emotional arousal (Studies 1 and 2) and by finding positive meaning in negative circumstances (Study 3). Implications for research on resilience and positive emotions are discussed.
Pictures of emotional facial expressions or natural scenes are often used as cues in emotion research. We examined the extent to which these different stimuli engage emotion and attention, and whether the presence of social anxiety symptoms influences responding to facial cues. Sixty participants reporting high or low social anxiety viewed pictures of angry, neutral, and happy faces, as well as violent, neutral, and erotic scenes, while skin conductance and event-related potentials were recorded. Acoustic startle probes were presented throughout picture viewing, and blink magnitude, probe P3 and reaction time to the startle probe also were measured. Results indicated that viewing emotional scenes prompted strong reactions in autonomic, central, and reflex measures, whereas pictures of faces were generally weak elicitors of measurable emotional response. However, higher social anxiety was associated with modest electrodermal changes when viewing angry faces and mild startle potentiation when viewing either angry or smiling faces, compared to neutral. Taken together, pictures of facial expressions do not strongly engage fundamental affective reactions, but these cues appeared to be effective in distinguishing between high and low social anxiety participants, supporting their use in anxiety research.
Following highly negative events, people are deemed resilient if they maintain psychological stability and experience fewer mental health problems. The current research investigated how trait resilience (Block & Kremen, 1996, ER89) influences recovery from anticipated threats. Participants viewed cues (‘aversive’, ‘threat’, ‘safety’) that signified the likelihood of an upcoming picture (100% aversive, 50/50 aversive/neutral, or 100% neutral; respectively), and provided continuous affective ratings during the cue, picture, and after picture offset (recovery period). Participants high in trait resilience (HighR) exhibited more complete affective recovery (compared to LowR) after viewing a neutral picture that could have been aversive. Although other personality traits previously associated with resilience (i.e., optimism, extraversion, neuroticism) predicted affective responses during various portions of the task, none mediated the influence of trait resilience on affective recovery.
resilience; emotion regulation; recovery; relief; anticipation
Studies on aging and emotion suggest an increase in reported positive affect, a processing bias of positive over negative information, as well as increasingly adaptive regulation in response to negative events with advancing age. These findings imply that older individuals evaluate information differently, resulting in lowered reactivity to, and/or faster recovery from, negative information, while maintaining more positive responding to positive information. We examined this hypothesis in an ongoing study on Midlife in the US (MIDUS II) where emotional reactivity and recovery were assessed in a large number of respondents (N = 159) from a wide age range (36–84 years). We recorded eye-blink startle magnitudes and corrugator activity during and after the presentation of positive, neutral and negative pictures. The most robust age effect was found in response to neutral stimuli, where increasing age is associated with a decreased corrugator and eyeblink startle response to neutral stimuli. These data suggest that an age-related positivity effect does not essentially alter the response to emotion-laden information, but is reflected in a more positive interpretation of affectively ambiguous information. Furthermore, older women showed reduced corrugator recovery from negative pictures relative to the younger women and men, suggesting that an age-related prioritization of well-being is not necessarily reflected in adaptive regulation of negative affect.
aging; emotion reactivity; emotional recovery; positivity effect; psychophysiology
The relationships between facial mimicry and subsequent psychological processes remain unclear. We hypothesized that the congruent facial muscle activity would elicit emotional experiences and that the experienced emotion would induce emotion recognition.
To test this hypothesis, we re-analyzed data collected in two previous studies. We recorded facial electromyography (EMG) from the corrugator supercilii and zygomatic major and obtained ratings on scales of valence and arousal for experienced emotions (Study 1) and for experienced and recognized emotions (Study 2) while participants viewed dynamic and static facial expressions of negative and positive emotions. Path analyses showed that the facial EMG activity consistently predicted the valence ratings for the emotions experienced in response to dynamic facial expressions. The experienced valence ratings in turn predicted the recognized valence ratings in Study 2.
These results suggest that facial mimicry influences the sharing and recognition of emotional valence in response to others' dynamic facial expressions.
Startle reflex modulation by affective pictures is a well-established effect in human emotion research. However, much less is known about startle modulation by affective faces, despite the growing evidence that facial expressions robustly activate emotion-related brain circuits. In this study, acoustic startle probes were administered to 33 young adult participants (16 women) during the viewing of slides from the Pictures of Facial Affect set including neutral, happy, angry, and fearful faces. The effect of expression valence (happy, neutral, negative) on startle magnitude was highly significant (p<.001). Startle reflex was strongly potentiated by negative expressions (fearful and angry), however, no attenuation by happy faces was observed. A significant valence by gender interaction suggests stronger startle potentiation effects in females. These results demonstrate that affective facial expressions can produce significant modulation of the startle reflex.
startle reflex; facial expression; emotion
The study used a daily process design to examine the role of psychological resilience and positive emotions in the day-to-day experience of pain catastrophizing. A sample of 95 men and women with chronic pain completed initial assessments of neuroticism, psychological resilience, and demographic data, and then completed short diaries regarding pain intensity, pain catastrophizing, and positive and negative emotions every day for 14 consecutive days. Multilevel modeling analyses indicated that independent of level of neuroticism, negative emotions, pain intensity, income, and age, high-resilient individuals reported greater positive emotions and exhibited lower day-to-day pain catastrophizing compared with low-resilient individuals. Mediation analyses revealed that psychologically resilient individuals rebound from daily pain catastrophizing through experiences of positive emotion. Implications for research on psychological resilience, pain catastrophizing, and positive emotions are discussed.
pain; catastrophizing; positive emotions; psychological resilience
Research has shown that during emotional imagery, valence and arousal each modulate the startle reflex. Here, two imagery-startle experiments required participants to attend to the startle probe as a simple reaction time cue. In Experiment 1, four emotional conditions differing in valence and arousal were examined. Experiment 2, to accentuate potential valence effects, included two negative high arousal, a positive high arousal and a negative low arousal condition. Imagery effectively manipulated emotional valence and arousal, as indicated by heart rate and subjective ratings. Compared to baseline, imagery facilitated startle responses. However, valence and arousal failed to significantly affect startle magnitude in both experiments and startle latency in Experiment 1. Results suggest that emotional startle modulation is eclipsed when the probe is significant for task completion and/or cues a motor response. Findings suggest that an active, rather than defensive, response set may interfere with affective startle modulation, warranting further investigation.
Startle; Emotion; Valence; Reaction Time; Imagery
The acoustic startle reflex can be modulated by positive and negative emotion. There is evidence that this modulation can be influenced by voluntary attempts to regulate emotion, and that startle modulation during emotion regulation is more reflective of changes in arousal than valence. However, whether valence and arousal play similar roles in emotion regulation across different psychophysiological indices is unclear. The goal of this study was to characterize further the relative contributions of valence and arousal to changes in psychophysiological responsiveness during voluntary emotion regulation, using multiple psychophysiological measures including eyeblink startle, skin conductance, and heart rate. We studied 10 healthy adults, and found that voluntary attempts to down-regulate positive and negative emotion resulted in decreased eyeblink startle magnitude, skin conductance responses, and heart rate, relative to attempts to up-regulate emotion. These findings indicate that the volitional regulation of emotion had systematic effects on psychophysiological parameters which were similar for positive and negative emotion, suggesting that psychophysiological responsiveness during emotion regulation is more strongly influenced by the modulation of arousal than by the valence of the regulated emotion.
The activity of basic motivational systems is reflected in emotional responses to arousing stimuli, such as natural pictures. The manipulation of picture properties such as size or detail allows for investigation into the extent to which separate emotional reactions are similarly modulated by perceptual changes, or, rather, may subserve different functions. Pursuing this line of research, the present study examined the effects of two types of perceptual degradation, namely picture size reduction and blurring, on emotional responses. Both manipulations reduced picture relevance and dampened affective modulation of skin conductance, possibly because of a reduced action preparation in response to degraded or remote pictures. However, the affective modulation of the startle reflex did not vary with picture degradation, suggesting that the identification of these degraded affective cues activated the neural circuits mediating appetitive or defensive motivation.
Negative affect is thought to be an important factor in the maintenance of cigarette smoking, and thus it is important to further develop objective measures of smoking-related emotional responses. Nonsmokers, nonabstinent smokers, and abstinent smokers participated in a cue reactivity task where eyeblink startle amplitude and startle probe P300 (P3) suppression were measured during the presentation of emotional pictures. During unpleasant pictures, the amplitude of both measures was smaller in nonabstinent smokers than in nonsmokers or abstinent smokers. P3 suppression, but not startle amplitude, was larger in abstinent smokers than in nonsmokers. Abstinence-induced increases in cigarette craving were associated with P3 suppression during tobacco-related pictures. Results suggest that tobacco abstinence increases emotional reactivity to unpleasant stimuli, which is consistent with negative reinforcement models of tobacco addiction.
Previous studies reveal age by valence interactions in attention and memory, such that older adults focus relatively more on positive and relatively less on negative stimuli than younger adults. In the current study, eyeblink startle response was used to measure differences in emotional reactivity to images that were equally arousing to both age groups. Viewing positive and negative pictures from the International Affective Picture System had opposite effects on startle modulation for older and younger adults. Younger adults showed the typical startle blink pattern, with potentiated startle when viewing negative pictures compared to positive pictures. Older adults, on the other hand, showed the opposite pattern, with potentiated startle when viewing positive pictures compared to viewing negative and neutral pictures. Potential underlying mechanisms for this interaction are evaluated. This pattern suggests that, compared with younger adults, older adults are more likely to spontaneously suppress responses to negative stimuli and process positive stimuli more deeply.
aging; affective modulation; emotional reactivity; positivity effect; startle response
Humans differ in terms of biased attention for emotional stimuli and these biases can confer differential resilience and vulnerability to emotional disorders. Selective processing of positive emotional information, for example, is associated with enhanced sociability and well-being while a bias for negative material is associated with neuroticism and anxiety. A tendency to selectively avoid negative material might also be associated with mental health and well-being. The neurobiological mechanisms underlying these cognitive phenotypes are currently unknown. Here we show for the first time that allelic variation in the promotor region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) is associated with differential biases for positive and negative affective pictures. Individuals homozygous for the long allele (LL) showed a marked bias to selectively process positive affective material alongside selective avoidance of negative affective material. This potentially protective pattern was absent among individuals carrying the short allele (S or SL). Thus, allelic variation on a common genetic polymorphism was associated with the tendency to selectively process positive or negative information. The current study is important in demonstrating a genotype-related alteration in a well-established processing bias, which is a known risk factor in determining both resilience and vulnerability to emotional disorders.
cognitive bias; serotonin transporter gene; selective attention; well-being; anxiety; cognitive endophenotype
Emotional stimuli are preferentially processed over neutral stimuli. Previous studies, however, disagree on whether emotional stimuli capture attention preattentively or whether the processing advantage is dependent on allocation of attention. The present study investigated attention and emotion processes by measuring brain responses related to eye movement events while 11 participants viewed images selected from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Brain responses to emotional stimuli were compared between serial and parallel presentation. An “emotional” set included one image with high positive or negative valence among neutral images. A “neutral” set comprised four neutral images. The participants were asked to indicate which picture—if any—was emotional and to rate that picture on valence and arousal. In the serial condition, the event-related potentials (ERPs) were time-locked to the stimulus onset. In the parallel condition, the ERPs were time-locked to the first eye entry on an image. The eye movement results showed facilitated processing of emotional, especially unpleasant information. The EEG results in both presentation conditions showed that the LPP (“late positive potential”) amplitudes at 400–500 ms were enlarged for the unpleasant and pleasant pictures as compared to neutral pictures. Moreover, the unpleasant scenes elicited stronger responses than pleasant scenes. The ERP results did not support parafoveal emotional processing, although the eye movement results suggested faster attention capture by emotional stimuli. Our findings, thus, suggested that emotional processing depends on overt attentional resources engaged in the processing of emotional content. The results also indicate that brain responses to emotional images can be analyzed time-locked to eye movement events, although the response amplitudes were larger during serial presentation.
attention; emotion; EEG; eye movements; co-registration; fixation-related potentials; free viewing; LPP
Extrapolating from B. L. Fredrickson's (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, the authors hypothesized that positive emotions are active ingredients within trait resilience. U.S. college students (18 men and 28 women) were tested in early 2001 and again in the weeks following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Mediational analyses showed that positive emotions experienced in the wake of the attacks— gratitude, interest, love, and so forth—fully accounted for the relations between (a) precrisis resilience and later development of depressive symptoms and (b) precrisis resilience and postcrisis growth in psychological resources. Findings suggest that positive emotions in the aftermath of crises buffer resilient people against depression and fuel thriving, consistent with the broaden-and-build theory. Discussion touches on implications for coping.
Response inhibition is a hallmark of executive control and crucial to support flexible behavior in a constantly changing environment. Recently, it has been shown that response inhibition is influenced by the presentation of emotional stimuli (Verbruggen and De Houwer, 2007). Healthy individuals typically differ in the degree to which they are able to regulate their emotional state, but it remains unknown whether individual differences in emotion regulation (ER) may alter the interplay between emotion and response inhibition. Here we address this issue by testing healthy volunteers who were equally divided in groups with high and low heart rate variability (HRV) during rest, a physiological measure that serves as proxy of ER. Both groups performed an emotional stop-signal task, in which negative high arousing pictures served as negative emotional stimuli and neutral low arousing pictures served as neutral non-emotional stimuli. We found that individuals with high HRV activated and inhibited their responses faster compared to individuals with low HRV, but only in the presence of negative stimuli. No group differences emerged for the neutral stimuli. Thus, individuals with low HRV are more susceptible to the adverse effects of negative emotion on response initiation and inhibition. The present research corroborates the idea that the presentation of emotional stimuli may interfere with inhibition and it also adds to previous research by demonstrating that the aforementioned relationship varies for individuals differing in HRV. We suggest that focusing on individual differences in HRV and its associative ER may shed more light on the dynamic interplay between emotion and cognition.
heart rate variability; response inhibition; individual differences; emotion regulation; stop-signal task
Resilience, i.e., the ability to cope with stress and adversity, relies heavily on judging adaptively complex situations. Judging facial emotions is a complex process of daily living that is important for evaluating the affective context of uncertain situations, which could be related to the individual's level of resilience. We used a novel experimental paradigm to test the hypothesis that highly resilient individuals show a judgment bias towards positive emotions.
65 non-treatment seeking subjects completed a forced emotional choice task when presented with neutral faces and faces morphed to display a range of emotional intensities across sadness, fear, and happiness.
Overall, neutral faces were judged more often to be sad or fearful than happy. Furthermore, high compared to low resilient individuals showed a bias towards happiness, particularly when judging neutral faces.
This is a cross-sectional study with a non-clinical sample.
These results support the hypothesis that resilient individuals show a bias towards positive emotions when faced with uncertain emotional expressions. This capacity may contribute to their ability to better cope with certain types of difficult situations, perhaps especially those that are interpersonal in nature.
Emotion perception; Resilience; Facial expressions; Neutral faces
Emotional facial expression is an important low-level mechanism contributing to the experience of empathy, thereby lying at the core of social interaction. Schizophrenia is associated with pervasive social cognitive impairments, including emotional processing of facial expressions. In this study we test a novel paradigm in order to investigate the evaluation of the emotional content of perceived emotions presented through dynamic expressive stimuli, facial mimicry evoked by the same stimuli, and their functional relation. Fifteen healthy controls and 15 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were presented with stimuli portraying positive (laugh), negative (cry) and neutral (control) emotional stimuli in visual, auditory modalities in isolation, and congruently or incongruently associated. Participants where requested to recognize and quantitatively rate the emotional value of the perceived stimuli, while electromyographic activity of Corrugator and Zygomaticus muscles was recorded. All participants correctly judged the perceived emotional stimuli and prioritized the visual over the auditory modality in identifying the emotion when they were incongruently associated (Audio-Visual Incongruent condition). The neutral emotional stimuli did not evoke any muscle responses and were judged by all participants as emotionally neutral. Control group responded with rapid and congruent mimicry to emotional stimuli, and in Incongruent condition muscle responses were driven by what participants saw rather than by what they heard. Patient group showed a similar pattern only with respect to negative stimuli, whereas showed a lack of or a non-specific Zygomaticus response when positive stimuli were presented. Finally, we found that only patients with reduced facial mimicry (Internalizers) judged both positive and negative emotions as significantly more neutral than controls. The relevance of these findings for studying emotional deficits in schizophrenia is discussed.
EMG; emotions; empathy; facial mimicry; schizophrenia; simulation
Several recent studies have documented age-related changes in brain activity - less amygdala activity and higher prefrontal activity in response to emotional stimuli. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined whether aging also affects the maintenance of activity to emotional stimuli and whether maintenance differs by the valence (negative, neutral, positive) of the pictures. Younger participants had a larger volume of activity in the amygdala but less in the prefrontal cortex than the old. The old showed more habituation to highly arousing negative but not positive or neutral stimuli in prefrontal cortex as compared to younger participants. Thus prefrontal cortex activity indexes emotion in the elderly, but not the young. Amplified prefrontal activity suggests elderly increase cognitive control for negative, highly arousing emotional stimuli, but it is not maintained. Taken together, age-related increases in prefrontal activity and reduced amygdala activity may underlie observed affective changes in aging.
aging; amygdala; emotion; fMRI; habituation; prefrontal cortex
Patients suffering from anxiety disorder may experience a few problems in the inhibition function. Using event-related potentials, the current study investigated the differences between subjects with high versus low trait-anxiety when they tried to inhibit disturbances in novel emotional pictures in an oddball task. The results showed that P3 amplitudes evoked by negative pictures relative to neutral pictures were decreased in subjects with high as well as low anxiety. In the high-anxious group, P3 amplitudes were also decreased in the positive condition relative to the neutral condition, whereas in the low anxious group, P3 amplitudes showed no significant differences between the positive and neutral stimuli. This implies that people with high anxiety may exhibit some degree of over-inhibition in emotional processing as compared to people with low anxiety. These people tend to indiscriminately inhibit all types of disturbing emotional information.
Anxiety; Inhibition; Attention; Novel stimuli; Event-related potentials; P3
Although it was proposed over a century ago that feedback from facial expressions influence emotional experience, tests of this hypothesis have been equivocal. Here we directly tested this facial feedback hypothesis (FFH) by comparing the impact on self-reported emotional experience of BOTOX injections (which paralyze muscles of facial expression) and a control Restylane injection (which is a cosmetic filler that does not affect facial muscles). When examined alone, BOTOX participants showed no pre- to post-treatment changes in emotional responses to our most positive and negative video clips. Between-groups comparisons, however, showed that relative to controls, BOTOX participants exhibited an overall significant decrease in the strength of emotional experience. This result was attributable to a) a pre- vs. post decrease in responses to mildly positive clips in the BOTOX group and b) an unexpected increase in responses to negative clips in the Restylane control group. These data suggest that feedback from facial expressions is not necessary for emotional experience, but may influence emotional experience in some circumstances. These findings point to specific directions for future work clarifying the expression-experience relationship.
BOTOX; Emotional Experience; Facial Expression; Facial Feedback; Embodied Emotion
To examine the effects of different emotion regulation strategies on acoustic eye-blink startle, 65 participants viewed positive, neutral, and negative pictures and were instructed to suppress, reappraise, or accept their emotional responses to these pictures using a within-group experimental design with separate blocks of pictures for each strategy. Instructions to suppress the emotional response led to an attenuation of the eye-blink startle magnitude, in comparison with instructions to reappraise or accept. Reappraisal and acceptance instructions did not differ from one another in their effect on startle. These results are discussed within the context of the existing empirical literature on emotion regulation.
emotion regulation; reappraisal; acceptance; suppression; eye-blink startle
The current study examined whether patterns of emotional response are differentially associated with symptom presentation and functional outcome in individuals with schizophrenia. Participants included 49 outpatients with schizophrenia and 50 demographically matched controls. All participants rated their emotional response to 131 images from the International Affective Picture Systems (IAPS) library on both arousal and valence scales. Stimuli were split into categories of positive versus negatively valenced stimulibased on control subject ratings. Cluster analysis was used to assess whether there were reliably distinct patterns of emotional response within the patient sample. Follow-up discriminant function analysis indicated that these groups were adequately separated. Sixty percent of the individuals with schizophrenia rated valence and arousal similarly to healthy subjects, while 40% displayed an atypical profile. Schizophrenia sub-groups classified by these two emotional response styles significantly differed on measures of functional outcome, severity of negative symptoms, and self-reported anhedonia. Findings are discussed in relation to current theories of emotional experience in schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia; Emotion; Anhedonia; Negative Symptoms; Functional Outcome