Negative emotionality is linked to unfavorable life outcomes, but studies have yet to examine negative emotionality of parents and children as predictors of children’s problem behaviors and negative emotion word use in everyday life. This study used a novel naturalistic recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) to investigate the separate and interactive influences of parent and child negative emotionality on daily child behaviors in a sample of 35 preschool-aged children over two time points separated by one year. Fathers’ negative emotionality predicted children’s whining at Time 1; mothers’ negative emotionality predicted children’s negative emotion word use at Time 1 and increases in children’s arguing/fighting from Time 1 to Time 2. Parents’ ratings of child negative emotionality also were associated with increases in children’s arguing/fighting from Time 1 to Time 2, and child negative emotionality moderated the association between mothers’ negative emotionality and children’s arguing/fighting. Further, children with mothers high in negative emotionality displayed higher levels of problem behaviors when their mothers self-reported low levels of positive emotional expressiveness and/or high levels of negative emotional expressiveness. These findings offer preliminary evidence linking parent and child negative emotionality to everyday child behaviors, and suggest that emotional expressiveness may play a key role in moderating the links between maternal negative emotionality and child behavioral problems.
Negative emotionality; naturalistic behavior; language; parenting; emotional expressiveness; Neuroticism; Electronically Activated Recorder
Greater levels of conscientiousness have been associated with lower levels of negative affect. We focus on one mechanism through which conscientiousness may decrease negative affect: effective emotion regulation, as reflected by greater recovery from negative stimuli. In 273 adults who were 35 - 85 years old, we collected self-report measures of personality including conscientiousness and its self-control facet, followed on average 2 years later by psychophysiological measures of emotional reactivity and recovery. Among middle-aged adults (35 - 65 years old), the measures of conscientiousness and self-control predicted greater recovery from, but not reactivity to, negative emotional stimuli. The effect of conscientiousness and self-control on recovery was not driven by other personality variables or by greater task adherence on the part of high conscientiousness individuals. In addition, the effect was specific to negative emotional stimuli and did not hold for neutral or positive emotional stimuli.
An extensive body of research has demonstrated that anxious individuals abnormally process threat-related content. Yet, the manner in which clinical anxiety affects the selection of threatening signals and their maintenance within consciousness is yet to be explored. The present study used an emotional binocular rivalry (e-BR) procedure, in which pictures of faces depicting either fearful or neutral expressions competed with pictures of a house for conscious perception. We assumed that first- or cumulative-preferred perception of faces with fearful over neutral expression (i.e., initial or sustained threat bias, respectively) stand for preferential selection or maintenance of fear content in awareness, correspondingly. Unmedicated patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and panic disorder (PAD) were compared to healthy controls for threat-related perceptual biases in the e-BR. At first perception of face, both SAD and PAD patients showed a greater initial threat bias than healthy controls. In contrast, at cumulative dwell-time of face, patient groups demonstrated a diminished sustained threat bias relative to healthy controls, yet in a different manner. SAD patients showed a sustained threat bias, though it was smaller than in healthy controls. Furthermore, increased levels of reported anxiety among SAD patients were associated with enhanced sustained perception of neutral faces. PAD patients, on the other hand, showed no sustained threat bias and a diminished cumulative perception of fearful faces with increased levels of anxiety traits. These findings indicate that anxiety disorders commonly involve an initially enhanced selection of threat signals into awareness, followed by disorder-specific manifestation of diminished preferred maintenance of threat in awareness.
social anxiety disorder; panic disorder; threat bias; binocular rivalry; information processing
Threatening faces involuntarily grab attention in socially anxious individuals. It is unclear however, if attention capture is at the expense of concurrent visual processing. The current study examined the perceptual cost effects of viewing fear-relevant stimuli (threatening faces) relative to a concurrent change-detection task. Steady-state visual evoked potentials (ssVEPs) were used to separate the neural response to two fully overlapping types of stimuli, flickering at different frequencies: Task-irrelevant facial expressions (angry, neutral, happy) were overlaid with a task-relevant Gabor patch stream, which required a response to rare phase reversals. Groups of 17 high and 17 low socially anxious observers were recruited through online prescreening of 849 students. A prominent competition effect of threatening faces was observed solely in elevated social anxiety: When an angry face, relative to a neutral or happy face, served as a distractor, heightened ssVEP amplitudes were seen at the tagging frequency of that facial expression. Simultaneously, the ssVEP evoked by the task-relevant Gabor grating was reliably diminished compared to conditions with neutral or happy distractor faces. Thus, threatening faces capture and hold low-level perceptual resources in viewers symptomatic for social anxiety, at the cost of a concurrent primary task. Importantly, this competition in lower-tier visual cortex was maintained throughout the viewing period and unaccompanied by competition effects on behavioral performance.
A total of 3,781 healthy adults between 18 and 97 years of age completed trait anxiety and depressive symptoms inventories and also performed a battery of cognitive tests. Consistent with recent research on cognitive abilities, the cognitive variables could be organized into a hierarchical structure, with 5 first-order abilities and a single g-factor representing the variance common to the first-order abilities at the top of the hierarchy. Analyses were conducted to determine where in this hierarchy effects associated with trait anxiety and depressive symptoms were operating. The results indicated that trait anxiety and depressive symptoms had significant relations at the highest level in the hierarchy of cognitive abilities, but few relations of either characteristic were evident on the cognitive abilities, or on measures of working memory, after controlling influences at the g-factor level.
cognitive abilities; mood effects; level of influence; hierarchical structure of cognitive ability
Emotional empathy and prosocial behavior were assessed in older, middle-aged, and young adults. Participants watched two films depicting individuals in need, one uplifting and the other distressing. Physiological responses were monitored during the films and participants rated their levels of emotional empathy following each film. As a measure of prosocial behavior, participants were given an additional payment they could contribute to charities supporting the individuals in the films. Age-related linear increases were found for both emotional empathy (self-reported empathic concern and cardiac and electrodermal responding) and prosocial behavior (size of contribution) across both films and in self-reported personal distress to the distressing film. Empathic concern and cardiac reactivity to both films, along with personal distress to the distressing film only, were associated with greater prosocial behavior. Empathic concern partially mediated the age-related differences in prosocial behavior. Results are discussed in terms of our understanding both of adult development and of the nature of these vital aspects of human emotion.
emotional empathy; prosocial behavior; emotion; physiological responses; aging
Expressions of emotion are often brief, providing only fleeting images from which to base important social judgments. We sought to characterize the sensitivity and mechanisms of emotion detection and expression categorization when exposure to faces is very brief, and to determine whether these processes dissociate. Observers viewed 2 backward-masked facial expressions in quick succession, 1 neutral and the other emotional (happy, fearful, or angry), in a 2-interval forced-choice task. On each trial, observers attempted to detect the emotional expression (emotion detection) and to classify the expression (expression categorization). Above-chance emotion detection was possible with extremely brief exposures of 10 ms and was most accurate for happy expressions. We compared categorization among expressions using a d′ analysis, and found that categorization was usually above chance for angry versus happy and fearful versus happy, but consistently poor for fearful versus angry expressions. Fearful versus angry categorization was poor even when only negative emotions (fearful, angry, or disgusted) were used, suggesting that this categorization is poor independent of decision context. Inverting faces impaired angry versus happy categorization, but not emotion detection, suggesting that information from facial features is used differently for emotion detection and expression categorizations. Emotion detection often occurred without expression categorization, and expression categorization sometimes occurred without emotion detection. These results are consistent with the notion that emotion detection and expression categorization involve separate mechanisms.
emotion detection; expression categorization; face-inversion effect; awareness; face processing
This study explored how the effectiveness of specific emotion regulation strategies might be influenced by aging and by time of day, given that in older age the circadian peak in cognitive performance is earlier in the day. We compared the benefit gained by 40 older (60–78 years; 20 women) and 40 younger (18–30 years; 20 women) adults during either on-peak or off-peak circadian times on 2 specific types of cognitive emotion regulation strategies: distraction and reappraisal. Participants rated their negative emotional responses to negative and neutral images under 3 conditions: a baseline nonregulation condition, a distraction condition involving a working memory task, and a reappraisal condition that involved reinterpreting the situation displayed using specific preselected strategies. First, as hypothesized, there was a crossover interaction such that participants in each age group reported more negative reactivity at their off-peak time of day. Second, a double dissociation was observed as circadian rhythms affected only negative reactivity—with reactivity highest at off-peak times—and aging diminished reappraisal but not distraction ability or reactivity. These findings add to growing evidence that understanding the effects of aging on emotion and emotion regulation depends on taking both time of day and type of regulatory strategy into account.
emotional reactivity; emotion regulation; cognitive reappraisal; aging; circadian rhythms
Embodied simulation accounts of emotion recognition claim that we vicariously activate somatosensory representations to simulate, and eventually understand, how others feel. Interestingly, Mirror-Touch Synaesthetes, who experience touch when observing others being touched, show both enhanced somatosensory simulation and superior recognition of emotional facial expressions. We employed synchronous visuotactile stimulation to experimentally induce a similar experience of ‘mirror touch’ in non-synesthetic participants. Seeing someone else’s face being touched at the same time as one’s own face results in the ‘enfacement illusion’, which has been previously shown to blur self-other boundaries. We demonstrate that the enfacement illusion also facilitates emotion recognition, and, importantly, this facilitatory effect is specific to fearful facial expressions. Shared synchronous multisensory experiences may experimentally facilitate somatosensory simulation mechanisms involved in the recognition of fearful emotional expressions.
somatosensory simulation; body-representation; mirror-touch synaesthesia; multisensory; embodiment
Defining the structural organization of emotions is a central unresolved question in affective science. In particular, the extent to which autonomic nervous system activity signifies distinct affective states remains controversial. Most prior research on this topic has used univariate statistical approaches in attempts to classify emotions from psychophysiological data. In the present study, electrodermal, cardiac, respiratory, and gastric activity, as well as self-report measures were taken from healthy subjects during the experience of fear, anger, sadness, surprise, contentment, and amusement in response to film and music clips. Information pertaining to affective states present in these response patterns was analyzed using multivariate pattern classification techniques. Overall accuracy for classifying distinct affective states was 58.0% for autonomic measures and 88.2% for self-report measures, both of which were significantly above chance. Further, examining the error distribution of classifiers revealed that the dimensions of valence and arousal selectively contributed to decoding emotional states from self-report, whereas a categorical configuration of affective space was evident in both self-report and autonomic measures. Taken together, these findings extend recent multivariate approaches to study emotion and indicate that pattern classification tools may improve upon univariate approaches to reveal the underlying structure of emotional experience and physiological expression.
emotion theory; autonomic nervous system; multivariate pattern classification; psychophysiology; affective state
The effects of two kinds of meditation (open presence and focused) on the facial and physiological aspects of the defensive response to an aversive startle stimulus were studied in a Buddhist monk with approximately 40 years of meditation experience. The participant was exposed to a 115 db, 100 ms acoustic startle stimulus under the two meditation conditions, a distraction condition (to control for cognitive and attentional load) and an unanticipated condition (startle presented without warning or instruction). A completely counterbalanced 24-trial single-subject design was used, with each condition repeated six times. Most aspects of the participant’s responses in the unanticipated condition did not differ from those of a comparison group of 12 age-matched male controls. Both kinds of meditation produced physiological and facial responses to the startle that were smaller than in the distraction condition. Within meditation conditions, open presence meditation produced smaller physiological and facial responses than focused meditation. These results from a single highly expert meditator indicate that these two kinds of meditation can differentially alter the magnitude of a primitive defensive response.
Studies of the effect of affect on perception often show consistent directional effects of a person’s affective state on perception. Unpleasant emotions have been associated with a “locally focused” style of stimulus evaluation, and positive emotions with a “globally focused” style. Typically, however, studies of affect and perception have not been conducted under the conditions of perceptual uncertainty and behavioral risk inherent to perceptual judgments outside the laboratory. We investigated the influence of perceivers’ experience affect (valence and arousal) on the utility of social threat perception by combining signal detection theory and behavioral economics. We created three perceptual decision environments that systematically differed with respect to factors that underlie uncertainty and risk: the base rate of threat, the costs of incorrect identification threat, and the perceptual similarity of threats and non-threats. We found that no single affective state yielded the best performance on the threat perception task across the three environments. Unpleasant valence promoted calibration of response bias to base rate and costs, high arousal promoted calibration of perceptual sensitivity to perceptual similarity, and low arousal was associated with an optimal adjustment of bias to sensitivity. However, the strength of these associations was conditional upon the difficulty of attaining optimal bias and high sensitivity, such that the effect of the perceiver’s affective state on perception differed with the cause and/or level of uncertainty and risk.
threat perception; valence; arousal; signal detection theory; utility
We used the Approach–Avoidance Task (AAT) to examine the role of automatic action tendencies. We hypothesized that, after manipulation of automatic action tendencies, participants would be more likely to approach feared objects when compared with participants in a control condition. Participants were instructed to push or pull a joystick, resulting in contamination-related and neutral pictures moving progressively away from or toward them, respectively. We manipulated approach by building a contingency between the arm movement and the picture type in the active condition but not in the control condition. Consistent with our hypothesis, participants in the active manipulation group showed facilitated automatic approach tendencies and reduced avoidance tendencies for contamination-related stimuli and completed more steps approaching their feared objects in a behavioral approach test compared with participants in the control group. Our results suggest that automatic action tendencies may play an important role in the maintenance of fear-related behavioral avoidance.
training of automatic action tendencies; Approach–Avoidance Task; behavioral approach test
Previous research reveals that older adults sometimes show enhanced processing of emotionally positive stimuli relative to negative stimuli, but that this positivity bias reverses to become a negativity bias when cognitive control resources are less available. In this study, we test the hypothesis that emotionally positive feedback will attenuate well-established age-related deficits in rule learning while emotionally negative feedback would amplify age deficits—but that this pattern would reverse when the task involved a high cognitive load. Experiment 1 used emotional face feedback and revealed an interaction between age, valence of the feedback and task load. When the task placed minimal load on cognitive control resources, happy face feedback attenuated age-related deficits in initial rule learning and angry face feedback led to age-related deficits in initial rule learning and set shifting. However, when the task placed a high load on cognitive control resources, we found that angry face feedback attenuated age-related deficits in initial rule learning and set shifting, whereas happy face feedback led to age-related deficits in initial rule learning and set shifting. Experiment 2 used less emotional point feedback and revealed age-related deficits in initial rule learning and set shifting under low and high cognitive load for point gain and point loss conditions. The present research demonstrates that emotional feedback can attenuate age-related learning deficits – but only positive feedback for tasks with a low cognitive load and negative feedback for tasks with high cognitive load.
normal aging; learning; set shifting; emotional processing
Emotional complexity has been regarded as one correlate of adaptive emotion regulation in adulthood. One novel and potentially valuable approach to operationalizing emotional complexity is to use reports of emotions obtained repeatedly in real time, which can generate a number of potential time-based indicators of emotional complexity. It is not known, however, how these indicators relate to each other, to other measures of affective complexity, such as those derived from a cognitive-developmental view of emotional complexity, or to measures of adaptive functioning, such as well-being. A sample of 109 adults, aged 23 to 90 years, participated in an experience-sampling study and reported their negative and positive affect five times a day for one week. Based on these reports, we calculated nine different time-based indicators potentially reflecting emotional complexity. Analyses showed three major findings: First, the indicators showed a diverse pattern of interrelations suggestive of four distinct components of emotional complexity. Second, age was generally not related to time-based indicators of emotional complexity; however, older adults showed overall low variability in negative affect. Third, time-based indicators of emotional complexity were either unrelated or inversely related to measures of adaptive functioning; that is, these measures tended to predict a less adaptive profile, such as lower subjective and psychological well-being. In sum, time-based indicators of emotional complexity displayed a more complex and less beneficial picture than originally thought. In particular, variability in negative affect seems to indicate suboptimal adjustments. Future research would benefit from collecting empirical data for the interrelations and correlates of time-based indicators of emotional complexity in different contexts.
emotional complexity; experience sampling; positive and negative affect; aging
General action and inaction concepts have been shown to produce broad, goal-mediated effects on cognitive and motor activity irrespective of the type of activity. The current research tested a model in which action and inaction goals interact with the valence of incidental moods to guide behavior. Over four experiments, participants’ moods were manipulated to be positive (happy), neutral, or negative (angry or sad), and then general action, inaction, and neutral concepts were primed. In Experiment 1, action primes increased intellectual performance when participants experienced a positive (happy) or neutral mood, whereas inaction primes increased performance when participants experienced a negative (angry) mood. Including a control-prime condition, Experiments 2 and 3 replicated these results measuring the number of general interest articles participants were willing to read and participants’ memory for pictures of celebrities. Experiment 4 replicated the results comparing happiness with sadness and suggested that the effect of the prime’s adoption was automatic. Overall, the findings supported an interactive model by which action concepts and positive affect produce the same increases in active behavior as inaction concepts and negative affect.
goals; self-regulation; mood
Behavioral inhibition (BI) is a temperament characterized in young children by a heightened sensitivity to novelty, social withdrawal, and anxious behaviors. For many children, these social difficulties dissipate over time. For others, patterns of social withdrawal continue into adolescence. Over time, attention biases to threat may influence the stability of behavioral inhibition and its association with social withdrawal, ultimately modulating the risk for anxiety disorders in BI children. However, we know relatively little about the cognitive processes that accompany BI and shape later socio-emotional functioning. We examined the relations among BI in childhood, attention biases to threat in adolescence, and adolescent social withdrawal in a longitudinal study (N=126, Mean age=15 years). As has been reported in anxious adults, adolescents who were behaviorally inhibited as toddlers and young children showed heightened attention bias to threat. In addition, attention bias to threat moderated the relation between childhood BI and adolescent social withdrawal.
Temperament; Behavioral Inhibition; Social Withdrawal; Attention Biases
The relations between young children’s mutual (reciprocated) and overall positive emotion (PE) with same- and other-gender peers and their social adjustment were explored. Children’s PE and peers’ PE were observed across the preschool year during peer interactions (N = 166; 46% girls; M age = 52 months). Results revealed that girls and boys had similar frequencies of overall PE and mutual PE when interacting with same-gender peers, but girls were marginally higher compared to boys in overall and mutual PE when interacting with other-gender peers. Girls and boys did not have greater rates of either type of PE after controlling for gender segregation during same- or other-gender interactions. Using structural equation modeling, children’s mutual PE, regardless of their gender, positively predicted indicators of positive adjustment (e.g., prosocial behavior, cooperation) and negatively predicted indicators of negative adjustment (e.g., hyperactivity, disruption, exclusion by peers). Children’s overall PE did not predict either type of adjustment. Findings support the importance of mutual PE for children’s development.
positive emotion; mutuality; peer relationships; gender; social adjustment
Hypothesizing that genetic factors partially govern sensitivity to interpersonal cues, we examined whether a polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the serotonin transporter gene would moderate spouses’ sensitivity to positive and negative partner affect. Before and after marital discussions, participants from seventy six couples (total n = 150) reported their affective states. Spouses carrying the short allele of the 5-HTTLPR were more responsive to their partner’s pre-interaction positive affect and anxiety/nervousness, compared to spouses with two long alleles. These data support the contention that the serotonin system influences affective responses to social stimuli. In contrast to the view that the 5-HTTLPR primarily affects response to adverse experiences, these results suggest that this polymorphism moderates sensitivity to positive as well as negative affect.
Affect sensitivity; Emotional transmission; 5-HTTLPR; Marriage
Evidence from two experiments suggests that negative arousal increases biases in attention that result from differences in visual salience. Participants were exposed to negative arousing or neutral sounds before briefly viewing an array of letters. They reported as many of the letters as they could, and attention was biased to certain letters by increasing salience through visual contrast. Regardless of the type of sound heard, participants were more likely to recall high-salience letters than low-salience letters. However, on arousing trials recall of high-salience letters increased, while recall of low-salience letters did not. These findings indicate that negative emotional arousal increases the selectivity of attention, and provides evidence for arousal-biased competition (ABC) theory (Mather & Sutherland, 2011), which predicts that emotional arousal enhances representations of stimuli that have priority.
Emotional Arousal; Salience; Short-Term Memory
Several theoretical frameworks have suggested that anxiety/stress impairs cognitive performance. A competing prediction is made by attentional narrowing models that predict that stress decreases the processing of task-irrelevant items, thus benefiting performance when task-irrelevant information interferes with behavior. Critically, previous studies have not evaluated these competing frameworks when potent emotional manipulations are involved. Here, we used threat of bodily harm preceding a color-word Stroop task to test these claims. We found a basic effect of threat consisting of a slowing down of performance during neutral Stroop trials. Furthermore, both facilitation and interference scores were affected by threat of shock in a way that was consistent with a reduced-distractor effect. Taken together, we interpret our findings in terms of two opposing effects of stress on cognitive performance. Although partly consistent with the attentional narrowing hypothesis, both resource models and cognitive breadth models require revision in order to account for the results.
Anxiety; Cognition; Stress; Attentional Narrowing
Cognition and emotion interact to determine ongoing behaviors. In this study, we investigated the interaction between cognition and emotion during response inhibition using the stop-signal task. In Experiment 1, low-threat stop-signals comprising fearful and happy face pictures were employed. We found that both fearful and happy faces improved response inhibition relative to neutral ones. In Experiment 2, we employed high-threat emotional stimuli as stop signals, namely stimuli previously paired with mild shock. In this case, inhibitory performance was impaired relative to a neutral condition. We interpret these findings in terms of the impact of emotional stimuli on early sensory/attentional processing, which resulted in improved performance (Experiment 1), and in terms of their impact at more central stages, which impaired performance (Experiment 2). Taken together, our findings demonstrate that emotion can either enhance or impair cognitive performance depending on the emotional potency of the stimuli involved.
Classic and contemporary research on person perception has demonstrated the paramount importance of interpersonal warmth. Recent research on embodied cognition has shown these feelings of social warmth or coldness can be induced by experiences of physical warmth or coldness, and vice versa. Here we show that people tend to self-regulate their feelings of social warmth through applications of physical warmth, apparently without explicit awareness of doing so. In Study 1, higher scores on a measure of chronic loneliness (social coldness) were associated with an increased tendency to take warm baths or showers. In Study 2, a physical coldness manipulation significantly increased feelings of loneliness. In Study 3, needs for social affiliation and for emotion regulation, triggered by recall of a past rejection experience, were subsequently eliminated by an interpolated physical warmth experience. Study 4 provided evidence that people are not explicitly aware of the relation between physical and social warmth (coldness), as they do not consider a target person who often bathes to be any lonelier than one who does not, all else being equal. Together, these findings suggest that physical and social warmth are to some extent substitutable in daily life and that this substitution reflects an unconscious self-regulatory mechanism.
The structure of temperament traits in young children has been the subject of extensive debate, with separate models proposing different trait dimensions. This research has relied almost exclusively on parent-report measures. The present study used an alternative approach, a laboratory observational measure, to explore the structure of temperament in preschoolers. A 2-stage factor analytic approach, exploratory factor analyses (n = 274) followed by confirmatory factor analyses (n = 276), was used. We retrieved an adequately fitting model that consisted of 5 dimensions: Sociability, Positive Affect/Interest, Dysphoria, Fear/Inhibition, and Constraint versus Impulsivity. This solution overlaps with, but is also distinct from, the major models derived from parent-report measures.
temperament; preschoolers; laboratory observational measure