Cardiac vagal reactivity during relived sadness is predicted by affect intensity and emotional intelligence.

Research paper by Joshua A JA Rash, Kenneth M KM Prkachin

Indexed on: 28 Nov '12Published on: 28 Nov '12Published in: Biological Psychology


The induction of one particular emotion - sadness - has shown two different profiles of autonomic nervous system (ANS) response that are characterized by activation, or withdrawal in cardiac parasympathetic activation. We tested whether individual differences in emotion expression predict cardiac vagal reactivity from baseline to autobiographical sadness induction.Respiration sinus arrhythmia (RSA(c)) was measured in 56 adults (28 men) asked to relive an episode of sadness. Participants completed an emotional intelligence (EI) test, and a measure of trait affect intensity.Sadness resulted in cardiac vagal activation with concomitant increase in HR suggestive of parasympathetic and sympathetic co-activation. Individual differences were observed in autonomic reactivity during sadness. Higher scores on the affect intensity measure and the emotional intelligence test predicted greater change in RSA(c) during sadness and recovery.The tendency to experience affect intensely and the ability to perceive emotions predict adaptive physiological regulation during sadness.