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1.  The Effect of Toddler Emotion Regulation on Maternal Emotion Socialization: Moderation by Toddler Gender 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(4):782-793.
Although developmental research continues to connect parenting behaviors with child outcomes, it is critical to examine how child behaviors influence parenting behaviors. Given the emotional, cognitive, and social costs of maladaptive parenting, it is vital to understand the factors that influence maternal socialization behaviors. The current study examines children’s observed emotion regulatory behaviors in two contexts (low-threat and high-threat novelty) as one influence. Mother-child dyads (n = 106) with toddlers of 24 months of age participated in novelty episodes from which toddler emotion regulation behaviors (caregiver-focused, attention, and self-soothing) were coded, and mothers reported their use of emotion socialization strategies when children were 24 and 36 months. We hypothesized that gender-specific predictive relations would occur, particularly from regulatory behaviors in the low-threat contexts. Gender moderated the relation between caregiver-focused emotion regulation in low-threat contexts and non-supportive emotion socialization. Results from the current study inform the literature on the salience of child-elicited effects on the parent-child relationship.
PMCID: PMC4115014  PMID: 24821395
emotion regulation; emotion socialization; parenting; toddlers; gender
2.  Motivational enhancement of cognitive control depends on depressive symptoms 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(4):646-650.
Performance feedback can motivate improvements in executive function (Ravizza et al., 2012). The present study examines whether the enhancement of task switching with performance feedback is modulated by the level of depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms have been linked to deficits in processing affective information inherent to such feedback (Henriques, 1994; Pizzagalli, et al., 2005). Task switching speed was assessed when performance feedback about accuracy was present or absent in a group of participants with minimal to moderate levels of depression. A significant positive correlation was observed between depressive symptoms and feedback effects on executive function indicating that those with lower depressive symptoms were more likely to show improvements in switching speed when performance feedback was present. These results suggest a novel link between executive function deficits and depression symptoms; namely, that greater levels of depressive symptoms are linked to diminished executive functioning via deficits in processing the affective component of performance feedback.
PMCID: PMC4115020  PMID: 24866522
depression; task switching; executive function; motivation
3.  The Amygdala Mediates the Emotional Modulation of Threat-Elicited Skin Conductance Response 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(4):693-700.
The ability to respond adaptively to threats in a changing environment is an important emotional function. The amygdala is a critical component of the neural circuit that mediates many emotion- related processes, and thus likely plays an important role in modulating the peripheral emotional response to threat. However, prior research has largely focused on the amygdala’s response to stimuli that signal impending threat, giving less attention to the amygdala’s response to the threat itself. From a functional perspective, however, it is the response to the threat itself that is most biologically relevant. Thus, understanding the factors that influence the amygdala’s response to threat is critical for a complete understanding of adaptive emotional processes. Therefore, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate factors (i.e. valence and arousal of co-occurring visual stimuli) that influence the amygdala’s response to threat (loud white-noise). We also assessed whether changes in amygdala activity varied with the peripheral expression of emotion (indexed via skin conductance response; SCR). The results showed that threat-elicited amygdala activation varied with the arousal, not valence of emotional images. More specifically, threat-elicited amygdala activation was larger to the threat when presented during high arousal (i.e. negative & positive) vs. low arousal (i.e. neutral) images. Further, the threat-elicited amygdala response was positively correlated with threat-elicited SCR. These findings indicate the amygdala’s response to threat is modified by the nature (e.g. arousal) of other stimuli in the environment. In turn, the amygdala appears to mediate important aspects of the peripheral emotional response to threat.
PMCID: PMC4115032  PMID: 24866521
fMRI; emotion; threat; amygdala; skin conductance
4.  A Contextual Approach to Experiential Avoidance and Social Anxiety: Evidence from an Experimental Interaction and Daily Interactions of People with Social Anxiety Disorder 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(4):769-781.
Experiential avoidance, the tendency to avoid internal, unwanted thoughts and feelings, is hypothesized to be a risk factor for social anxiety. Existing studies of experiential avoidance rely on trait measures with minimal contextual consideration. In two studies, we examined the association between experiential avoidance and anxiety within real-world social interactions. In the first study, we examined the effect of experiential avoidance on social anxiety in everyday life. For two weeks, 37 participants with Social Anxiety Disorder [SAD] and 38 healthy controls provided reports of experiential avoidance and social anxiety symptoms during face-to-face social interactions. Results showed that momentary experiential avoidance was positively related to anxiety symptoms during social interactions and this effect was stronger among people with SAD. People low in EA showed greater sensitivity to the level of situational threat than high EA people. In the second study, we facilitated an initial encounter between strangers. Unlike Study 1, we experimentally created a social situation where there was either an opportunity for intimacy (self-disclosure conversation) or no such opportunity (small-talk conversation). Results showed that greater experiential avoidance during the self-disclosure conversation temporally preceded increases in social anxiety for the remainder of the interaction; no such effect was found in the small-talk conversation. Our findings provide insight into the association between experiential avoidance on social anxiety in laboratory and naturalistic settings, and demonstrate that the effect of EA depends upon level of social threat and opportunity.
PMCID: PMC4191827  PMID: 24749634
experiential avoidance; social anxiety; well-being; daily diary methodology
5.  Emotional and Instrumental Support Provision Interact to Predict Well-Being 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2015;15(4):484-493.
Individuals in close relationships help each other in many ways, from listening to each other’s problems, to making each other feel understood, to providing practical support. However, it is unclear if these supportive behaviors track each other across days and as stable tendencies in close relationships. Further, although past work suggests that giving support improves providers’ well-being, the specific features of support provision that improve providers’ psychological lives remain unclear. We addressed these gaps in knowledge through a daily diary study that comprehensively assessed support provision and its effects on well-being. We found that providers’ emotional support (e.g., empathy) and instrumental support represent distinct dimensions of support provision, replicating prior work. Crucially, emotional support, but not instrumental support, consistently predicted provider well-being. These two dimensions also interacted, such that instrumental support enhanced well-being of both providers and recipients, but only when providers were emotionally engaged while providing support. These findings illuminate the nature of support provision and suggest targets for interventions to enhance well-being.
PMCID: PMC4516598  PMID: 26098734
support; provider; well-being; empathy; relationships
6.  The eyes have it: Making positive expressions more positive and negative expressions more negative 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2011;12(3):430-436.
Facial expressions frequently involve multiple individual facial actions. How do facial actions combine to create emotionally meaningful expressions? Infants produce positive and negative facial expressions at a range of intensities. It may be that a given facial action can index the intensity of both positive (smiles) and negative (cry-face) expressions. Objective, automated measurements of facial action intensity were paired with continuous ratings of emotional valence to investigate this possibility. Degree of eye constriction (the Duchenne marker) and mouth opening were each uniquely associated with smile intensity and, independently, with cry-face intensity. Additionally, degree of eye constriction and mouth opening were each unique predictors of emotion valence ratings. Eye constriction and mouth opening index the intensity of both positive and negative infant facial expressions, suggesting parsimony in the early communication of emotion.
PMCID: PMC4492304  PMID: 22148997
Emotional Expression; Facial Action; Infancy; Valence; Intensity; Joy; Distress
7.  Empirical explorations of mindfulness: Conceptual and methodological conundrums 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2010;10(1):8-11.
This commentary reflects on the articles in this Special Issue. The appearance of this group of articles in this Journal underscores the important idea that a major target of mindfulness practice is on emotion. Transformation in trait affect is a key goal of all contemplative traditions. This commentary addresses several key methodological and conceptual issues in the empirical study of mindfulness. The many ways in which the term “mindfulness” is used in the articles in this Special Issue are noted and they include its reference to states, traits and independent variables that are manipulated in an experimental context. How the term “mindfulness” is conceptualized and operationalized is crucial and for progress to be made it is essential that we qualify the use of this term by reference to how it is being operationalized in each context. Other methodological issues were considered such as the duration of training and how it should be measured, and the nature of control and comparison groups in studies of mindfulness-based interventions. Finally, the commentary ends with a consideration of the targets within emotion processing that are likely to be impacted by mindfulness. This collection of articles underscores the substantial progress that has occurred in the empirical study of mindfulness and it is a harbinger of a very promising future in this area.
PMCID: PMC4485421  PMID: 20141297
mindfulness; meditation; emotion; affective neuroscience
8.  Children’s Negative Emotions and Ego-Resiliency: Longitudinal Relations With Social Competence 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2013;14(2):397-406.
We examined the relations of negative emotions in toddlerhood to the development of ego-resiliency and social competence across early childhood. Specifically, we addressed whether fear and anger/frustration in 30-month-old children (N = 213) was associated with the development of ego-resiliency across 4 time points (42 to 84 months), and, in turn, whether ego-resiliency predicted social competence at 84 months. Child anger/frustration negatively predicted the intercept of ego-resiliency at 42 months (controlling for prior ego-resiliency at 18 months) as well as the slope. Fear did not significantly predict either the intercept or slope of ego-resiliency in the structural model, although it was positively correlated with anger/frustration and was negatively related to ego-resiliency in zero-order correlations. The slope of ego-resiliency was positively related to children’s social competence at 84 months; however, the intercept of ego-resiliency (set at 42 months) was not a significant predictor of later social competence. Furthermore, the slope of ego-resiliency mediated the relations between anger/frustration and children’s later social competence. The results suggest that individual differences in anger/frustration might contribute to the development of ego-resiliency, which, in turn, is associated with children’s social competence.
PMCID: PMC4472430  PMID: 24364850
ego-resiliency; anger/frustration; fear; social competence; negative emotionality
9.  Expectancy bias in anxious samples 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(3):588-601.
While it is well documented that anxious individuals have negative expectations about the future, it is unclear what cognitive processes give rise to this expectancy bias. Two studies are reported that use the Expectancy Task, which is designed to assess expectancy bias and illuminate its basis. This task presents individuals with valenced scenarios (Positive Valence, Negative Valence, or Conflicting Valence), and then evaluates their tendency to expect subsequent future positive relative to negative events. The Expectancy Task was used with low and high trait anxious (Study 1: N = 32) and anxiety sensitive (Study 2: N = 138) individuals. Results suggest that in the context of physical concerns, both high anxious samples display a less positive expectancy bias. In the context of social concerns, high trait anxious individuals display a negative expectancy bias only when negatively valenced information was previously presented. Overall, this suggests that anxious individuals display a less positive expectancy bias, and that the processes that give rise to this bias may vary by type of situation (e.g., social or physical) or anxiety difficulty.
PMCID: PMC4104578  PMID: 24798678
Trait Anxiety; Anxiety Sensitivity; Expectancy Bias; Extrapolation
10.  Asians Demonstrate Reduced Sensitivity to Unpredictable Threat: A Preliminary Startle Investigation using Genetic Ancestry in a Multi-Ethnic Sample 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(3):615-623.
Research has indicated that individuals of Asian descent, relative to other racial groups, demonstrate reduced emotional responding and lower prevalence rates of several anxiety disorders. It is unclear though whether these group differences extend to biomarkers of anxiety disorders and whether genetic differences play a role. The present study compared self-identified Caucasians, Latinos, and Asians (total N = 174) on startle response during a baseline period and while anticipating unpredictable threat–a putative biomarker for certain anxiety disorders–as well as predictable threat. In addition, the association between genetic ancestry and startle response was examined within each racial group to determine potential genetic influences on responding. For the baseline period, Asian participants exhibited a smaller startle response relative to Caucasian and Latino participants, who did not differ. Within each racial group, genetic ancestry was associated with baseline startle. Furthermore, genetic ancestry mediated racial group differences in baseline startle. For the threat conditions, a Race × Condition interaction indicated that Asian participants exhibited reduced startle potentiation to unpredictable, but not predicable, threat relative to Caucasian and Latino participants, who did not differ. However, genetic ancestry was not associated with threat-potentiated startle in any racial group. The present study adds to the growing literature on racial differences in emotional responding and provides preliminary evidence suggesting that genetic ancestry may play an important role. Moreover, reduced sensitivity to unpredictable threat may reflect a mechanism for why individuals of Asian descent are at less risk for particular anxiety disorders relative to other racial groups.
PMCID: PMC4049523  PMID: 24708496
race; ancestry informative markers; genetics; unpredictability; startle
11.  The Development of Infant Detection of Inauthentic Emotion 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(3):488-503.
Appreciating authentic and inauthentic emotional communication is central to the formation of trusting and intimate interpersonal relationships. However, when infants are able to discriminate and respond to inauthentic emotion has not been investigated. The present set of studies was designed to investigate infant sensitivity to three specific cues of inauthenticity: the contextual congruency of the emotion, the degree of exaggeration of the emotion, and the clarity with which the emotion is communicated. In each experiment, 16- and 19-month-old infants were presented with an emotional communication in which an inauthentic cue was present or absent. Infant behavioral responding to the emotional context was observed and coded. In all three experiments, 19-month-old infants, but not 16-month-old infants, detected inauthentic emotional communication and differentially responded to the environment accordingly. These findings demonstrate that infants do not simply take all emotional communication at face value and are sensitive to features of emotional contexts beyond what is expressively communicated by the adult. Possible developmental mechanisms that may account for the observed developmental shift in infant emotional development are proposed, and implications for the present findings on future research in emotion and emotional development are highlighted.
PMCID: PMC4067247  PMID: 24512249
emotion; development; authenticity
12.  Motivation versus aversive processing during perception 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(3):450-454.
Reward facilitates performance and boosts cognitive performance across many tasks. At the same time, negative affective stimuli interfere with performance when they are not relevant to the task at hand. Yet, the investigation of how reward and negative stimuli impact perception and cognition has taken place in a manner that is largely independent of each other. How reward and negative emotion simultaneously contribute to behavioral performance is currently poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to investigate how the simultaneous manipulation of positive motivational processing (here manipulated via reward) and aversive processing (here manipulated via negative picture viewing) influence behavior during a perceptual task. We tested two competing hypothesis about the impact of reward on negative picture viewing. On the one hand, suggestions about the automaticity of emotional processing predict that negative picture interference would be relatively immune to reward. On the contrary, if affective visual processing is not obligatory as we have argued in the past, reward may counteract the deleterious effect of more potent negative pictures. We found that reward counteracted the effect of potent, negative distractors during a visual discrimination task. Thus, when sufficiently motivated, participants were able to reduce the deleterious impact of bodily mutilation stimuli.
PMCID: PMC4110899  PMID: 24708503
reward; emotion; aversive pictures; perception; automaticity
13.  Differentiating Emotions Across Contexts: Comparing Adults with and without Social Anxiety Disorder Using Random, Social Interaction, and Daily Experience Sampling 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(3):629-638.
The ability to recognize and label emotional experiences has been associated with well-being and adaptive functioning. This skill is particularly important in social situations, as emotions provide information about the state of relationships and help guide interpersonal decisions, such as whether to disclose personal information. Given the interpersonal difficulties linked to social anxiety disorder (SAD), deficient negative emotion differentiation may contribute to impairment in this population. We hypothesized that people with SAD would exhibit less negative emotion differentiation in daily life, and these differences would translate to impairment in social functioning. We recruited 43 people diagnosed with generalized SAD and 43 healthy adults to describe the emotions they experienced over 14 days. Participants received palmtop computers for responding to random prompts and describing naturalistic social interactions; to complete end-of-day diary entries, they used a secure online website. We calculated intraclass correlation coefficients to capture the degree of differentiation of negative and positive emotions for each context (random moments, face-to-face social interactions, and end-of-day reflections). Compared to healthy controls, the SAD group exhibited less negative (but not positive) emotion differentiation during random prompts, social interactions, and (at trend level) end-of-day assessments. These differences could not be explained by emotion intensity or variability over the 14 days, or to comorbid depression or anxiety disorders. Our findings suggest that people with generalized SAD have deficits in clarifying specific negative emotions felt at a given point of time. These deficits may contribute to difficulties with effective emotion regulation and healthy social relationship functioning.
PMCID: PMC4191833  PMID: 24512246
social anxiety disorder; negative emotions; ecological momentary assessment; experience sampling
14.  Fearful, but not Angry, Expressions Diffuse Attention to Peripheral Targets in an Attentional Blink Paradigm 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(3):462-468.
We previously demonstrated that, within a passive viewing task, fearful facial expressions implicitly facilitate memory for contextual events, while angry facial expressions do not (Davis et al., 2011). The current study sought to more directly address the implicit effect of fearful expressions on attention for contextual events within a classic attentional paradigm (i.e., the attentional blink) where memory is tested on a trial-by-trial basis, thereby providing subjects with a clear explicit attentional strategy. Neutral faces of a single gender were presented via rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) while bordered by four gray pound signs. Participants were told to watch for a gender change within the sequence (T1). Critically, the T1 face displayed either a neutral, fearful, or angry expression. Subjects were also told to detect a color change (i.e., gray to green; T2) at one of the four pound sign locations appearing after T1. This T2 color change could appear at one of six temporal positions. Participants were told to respond via button press immediately when a T2 target was presented. We found that fearful, compared to the neutral T1 faces, significantly increased target detection ability at four of the six temporal locations (all p’s < .05) while angry expressions showed no such effects. The results of this study suggest that fearful facial expressions can uniquely and implicitly enhance environmental monitoring above and beyond explicit attentional effects related to task instructions.
PMCID: PMC4286700  PMID: 24708498
15.  Mental fatigue impairs emotion regulation 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2015;15(3):383-389.
As healthy physical and mental functioning depends on the ability to regulate emotions, it is important to identify moderators of such regulations. Whether mental fatigue, subsequent to the depletion of cognitive resources, impairs explicit emotion regulation to negative stimuli is currently unknown. This study explored this possibility. In a within-subject design over two separate sessions, healthy individuals performed easy (control session) or difficult (depletion session) cognitive tasks. Subsequently, they were presented neutral and negative pictures, with the instructions to either maintain or regulate (i.e., reduce) the emotions evoked by the pictures. Emotional reactivity was probed with the startle reflex. The negative pictures evoked a similar aversive state in the control and depletion sessions as measured by startle potentiation. However, subjects were able to down-regulate their aversive state only in the control session, but not in the depletion session. These results indicate that mental fatigue following performance of cognitive tasks impairs emotion regulation without affecting emotion reactivity. These findings suggest that mental fatigue needs to be incorporated into models of emotion regulation.
PMCID: PMC4437828  PMID: 25706833
emotion regulation; mental fatigue; ego depletion; startle
16.  Oxytocin and vasopressin receptor polymorphisms interact with circulating neuropeptides to predict human emotional reactions to stress 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(3):562-572.
Oxytocin (OT) and a polymorphism (rs53576) in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) have been independently associated with stress reactivity, whereas oxytocin’s sister peptide, arginine vasopressin (AVP), and polymorphisms in the vasopressin receptor gene (AVPR1A) have been independently associated with aggressive behavior. In this study, 68 men and 98 women were genotyped for the OXTR rs53576 polymorphism and the AVPR1A RS1 polymorphism. Baseline and post-stressor levels of plasma OT, plasma AVP, positive affect, and anger were assessed. Women, but not men, with high levels of post-stressor OT and the GG genotype of rs53576 felt the most positive affect after the stressor. Men, but not women, with high levels of post-stressor AVP and with the 320allele of the RS1 polymorphism reported more post-stressor anger than non-carriers. These data constitute the first evidence that oxytocin and vasopressin receptor genes interact with levels of OT and AVP to predict sex-specific emotional stress responses.
PMCID: PMC4210353  PMID: 24660771
OXTR rs53576; oxytocin; AVPR1A RS1; vasopressin; positive emotion; anger
17.  Emotion Words Shape Emotion Percepts 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2012;12(2):314-325.
People believe they see emotion written on the faces of other people. In an instant, simple facial actions are transformed into information about another's emotional state. The present research examined whether a perceiver unknowingly contributes to emotion perception with emotion word knowledge. We present 2 studies that together support a role for emotion concepts in the formation of visual percepts of emotion. As predicted, we found that perceptual priming of emotional faces (e.g., a scowling face) was disrupted when the accessibility of a relevant emotion word (e.g., anger) was temporarily reduced, demonstrating that the exact same face was encoded differently when a word was accessible versus when it was not. The implications of these findings for a linguistically relative view of emotion perception are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4445832  PMID: 22309717
emotion perception; perceptual priming; linguistic relativity; words; conceptual knowledge
18.  Impact of Amygdala, Orbital Frontal, or Hippocampal Lesions on Threat Avoidance and Emotional Reactivity in Nonhuman Primates 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2009;9(2):147-163.
The authors measured the effects of bilateral amygdaloid, orbital frontal, or hippocampal lesions on emotional reactivity and passive avoidance in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Animals were presented with 8 neutral or 8 aversive objects, each paired with a highly preferred food reward. Shamoperated control animals displayed heightened defensive behaviors and typically would not approach or retrieve the food when paired with a potential predator (coiled rubber snake), 2 conditioned aversive stimuli for laboratory-housed monkeys (a capture net and leather handling gloves), and 1 object displaying a threatening social signal (direct eye contact from a human-like doll). Animals with amygdala lesions, but not hippocampal or orbital frontal lesions, showed less tension-related behaviors and diminished passive avoidance of the rubber snake and its matched neutral item (a coiled piece of hose) relative to control animals. All operated groups displayed normal patterns of behavior toward conditioned and socially aversive objects. These results expand our understanding of how the primate brain evaluates reward and threat, and indicate a highly specialized role for the amygdala in mediating passive avoidance and emotional reactivity to potentially life-threatening stimuli.
PMCID: PMC4410686  PMID: 19348528
Macaca mulatta; fear; ibotenic acid; decision making; approach-avoidance conflict
19.  Why Do Fearful Facial Expressions Elicit Behavioral Approach? Evidence From a Combined Approach-Avoidance Implicit Association Test 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2015;15(2):223-231.
Despite communicating a “negative” emotion, fearful facial expressions predominantly elicit behavioral approach from perceivers. It has been hypothesized that this seemingly paradoxical effect may occur due to fearful expressions’ resemblance to vulnerable, infantile faces. However, this hypothesis has not yet been tested. We used a combined approach-avoidance/implicit association test (IAT) to test this hypothesis. Participants completed an approach-avoidance lever task during which they responded to fearful and angry facial expressions as well as neutral infant and adult faces presented in an IAT format. Results demonstrated an implicit association between fearful facial expressions and infant faces and showed that both fearful expressions and infant faces primarily elicit behavioral approach. The dominance of approach responses to both fearful expressions and infant faces decreased as a function of psychopathic personality traits. Results suggest that the prosocial responses to fearful expressions observed in most individuals may stem from their associations with infantile faces.
PMCID: PMC4385234  PMID: 25603135
fear; facial expressions; implicit association test; approach; psychopathy
20.  Aiming for the stomach and hitting the heart: Dissociable triggers and sources for disgust reactions 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2013;14(2):301-309.
Disgust reactions can be elicited using stimuli that engender orogastric rejection (e.g., pus and vomit; Core Disgust stimuli), but also using images of bloody injuries or medical procedures (e.g., surgeries; Blood-[Body] Boundary Violation [B-BV] Disgust stimuli). These two types of disgust reaction are believed to be connected by a common evolutionary function of avoiding either food- or blood-borne contaminants. However, reactions to the category of bloody injuries are typically conflated with reactions to the potential pain being experienced by the victim. This may explain why the two forms of ‘disgust,’ though similarly communicated (through self-report and facial expressions) evince different patterns of physiological reactivity. We therefore tested whether the communicative similarities and physiological dissimilarities would hold when markers of potential contamination in the latter category are removed, leaving only painful injuries that lack blood or explicit body-envelope violations. Participants viewed films that depicted imagery associated with (1) core disgust, (2) painful injuries, or (3) neutral scenes while we measured facial, cardiovascular, and gastric reactivity, respectively. Whereas communicative measures (self-report and facial muscles) suggested that participants experienced increased disgust for both core disgust and painful injuries, peripheral physiology dissociated the two: core disgust decreased normal gastric activity and painful-injury disgust decelerated heart rate and increased heart rate variability. These findings suggest that expressions of disgust toward bodily injuries may reflect a fundamentally different affective response than those evoked by core disgust, and that this (cardiovascularly-mediated) response may in fact be more closely tied to pain-perceptions (or empathy) rather than contaminant-laden stimuli.
PMCID: PMC4050063  PMID: 24219399
21.  Behavioral effects of longitudinal training in cognitive reappraisal 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2013;14(2):425-433.
While recent emotion regulation research has identified effective regulatory strategies that participants can employ during single experimental sessions, a critical but unresolved question is whether one can increase the efficacy with which one can deploy these strategies through repeated practice. To address this issue we focused on one strategy, reappraisal, which involves cognitively reframing affective events in ways that modulate one's emotional response to them. With a commonly used reappraisal task, we assessed the behavioral correlates of four laboratory sessions of guided practice in down-regulating responses to aversive photos. Two groups received practice in one of two different types of reappraisal tactics: psychological distancing and reinterpretation. A third no-regulation control group viewed images in each session without instructions to regulate. Three key findings were observed. First, both distancing and reinterpretation training resulted in reductions over time in self-reported negative affect. Second, distancing participants also showed a reduction over time in negative affect on baseline trials where they responded naturally. Only distancing group participants showed such a reduction over and above the reduction observed in the no-regulation control group, indicating that it was not attributable to habituation. Third, only participants who distanced reported less perceived stress in their daily lives. The present results provide the first evidence for the longitudinal trainability of reappraisal in healthy adults using short courses of reappraisal practice, particularly using psychological distancing.
PMCID: PMC4096123  PMID: 24364856
emotion; reappraisal; training; longitudinal; perceived stress
22.  Emotion perception, but not affect perception, is impaired with semantic memory loss 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2014;14(2):375-387.
For decades, psychologists and neuroscientists have hypothesized that the ability to perceive emotions on others’ faces is inborn, pre-linguistic, and universal. Concept knowledge about emotion has been assumed to be epiphenomenal to emotion perception. In this paper, we report findings from three patients with semantic dementia that cannot be explained by this “basic emotion” view. These patients, who have substantial deficits in semantic processing abilities, spontaneously perceived pleasant and unpleasant expressions on faces, but not discrete emotions such as anger, disgust, fear, or sadness, even in a task that did not require the use of emotion words. Our findings support the hypothesis that discrete emotion concept knowledge helps transform perceptions of affect (positively or negatively valenced facial expressions) into perceptions of discrete emotions such as anger, disgust, fear and sadness. These findings have important consequences for understanding the processes supporting emotion perception.
PMCID: PMC4119962  PMID: 24512242
23.  Becoming Happier Takes Both a Will and a Proper Way: An Experimental Longitudinal Intervention to Boost Well-Being 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2011;11(2):391-402.
An 8-months long experimental study examined the immediate and longer-term effects of regularly practicing two assigned positive activities – expressing optimism and gratitude – on well-being. More important, this intervention allowed us to explore the impact of two meta-factors that are likely to influence the success of any positive activity – whether one self-selects into the study knowing that it is about increasing happiness and whether one invests effort into the activity over time. Our results indicate that initial self-selection makes a difference, but only in the two positive activity conditions, not the control; and that continued effort also makes a difference, but again only in the treatment conditions. We conclude that happiness interventions are more than just placebos, but that they are most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention.
PMCID: PMC4380267  PMID: 21500907
Happiness; intervention; gratitude; optimism; effort; motivation
24.  Distinguishing Emotional Co-Regulation From Co-Dysregulation: An Investigation of Emotional Dynamics and Body-Weight in Romantic Couples 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2015;15(1):45-60.
Well-regulated emotions, both within people and between relationship partners, play a key role in facilitating health and well-being. The present study examined 39 heterosexual couples’ joint weight status (both partners are healthy-weight, both overweight, one healthy-weight and one overweight) as a predictor of two interpersonal emotional patterns during a discussion of their shared lifestyle choices. The first pattern, co-regulation, is one in which partners’ coupled emotions show a dampening pattern over time and ultimately return to homeostatic levels. The second, co-dysregulation, is one in which partners’ coupled emotions are amplified away from homeostatic balance. We demonstrate how a coupled linear oscillator (CLO) model (Butner, Amazeen, & Mulvey, 2005) can be used to distinguish co-regulation from co-dysregulation. As predicted, healthy-weight couples and mixed-weight couples in which the man was heavier than the woman displayed co-regulation, but overweight couples and mixed-weight couples in which the woman was heavier showed co-dysregulation. These results suggest that heterosexual couples in which the woman is overweight may face formidable co-regulatory challenges that could undermine both partners’ well-being. The results also demonstrate the importance of distinguishing between various interpersonal emotional dynamics for understanding connections between interpersonal emotions and health.
PMCID: PMC4353565  PMID: 25664951
emotion regulation; coregulation; codysregulation; body mass index; couples
25.  The Relations of Ego-Resiliency and Emotion Socialization to the Development of Empathy and Prosocial Behavior Across Early Childhood 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2013;13(5):822-831.
The present study explored early personality and environmental predictors of the development of young children’s empathy, as well as relations of empathy to prosocial behavior with peers at a later age. How children manage their own emotions and behaviors when under stress—their ego-resiliency—would be expected to affect their responses to others’ emotions. Also, socialization experiences, such as the quality of parenting behaviors, have been associated with individual differences in empathy-related responding. We examined whether mothers’ emotion socialization practices and children’s ego-resiliency at 18 months predicted initial levels and change in empathy across five time points (24, 30, 42, 48, and 54 months; N = 242), and whether empathy in turn predicted prosocial behavior with peers at 72/84 months of age. Ego-resiliency and mothers’ expressive encouragement both uniquely predicted the intercept of empathy. Boys’ empathy was lower than girls’ but improved more with age. Initial levels and growth of empathy positively predicted later prosocial behavior. Children’s ego-resiliency predicted the slope of empathy at near significance (p = .054). We also found that the intercept of empathy mediated the relation between ego-resiliency and prosocial behavior as well as the relation between mothers’ expressive encouragement and prosocial behavior. These findings suggest that both parenting and personality characteristics are relevant to the development of empathy during early childhood and might contribute to children’s later prosocial behavior with peers.
PMCID: PMC4314208  PMID: 24098930
empathy; ego-resiliency; parenting; prosocial behavior; early childhood

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