Developmental Psychology PhD Student
Serenity intervenes between personality and emotion regulation
Broadly, I study emotion regulation in children and young adults, and try to identify intervening traits that may be cultivated to enhance effective emotion regulation strategies. Emotion regulation is the process of changing the duration, intensity, impact, or expression of emotions. This could be stopping yourself from acting out when you are angry, soothing yourself when you are sad, or by breathing deeply to calm your nerves. In my current research I address the relation between serenity and behavioral emotion regulation (BER; altering the physical expression of emotions). Serenity is a positive emotion related to calmness, peacefulness, and relaxedness. Positive emotions have been shown to lead to adaptive functioning by broadening cognition, speeding physiological recovery from stress, increasing flexible thinking patterns, and by aiding in the assimilation of new learning—all aspects that may increase effective emotion regulation abilities. In my current project, I evaluate serenity level as a potential intervening factor that may enhance BER.
Certain personality constructs on their own predict poorer BER, such as those related to depression, anxiety, and other forms of psychopathology. While these personality tendencies may not be easily intervened upon, serenity may alter the impact that these personality constructs would otherwise have on BER. By evaluating serenity’s impact on the existing relation between a personality construct and BER, I can determine for whom an increase in serenity may lead to more adaptive behavioral emotion regulation. My findings support my hypothesis that higher levels of serenity facilitate better BER functioning despite the impact of initial personality constructs that tend to impede BER. These findings are important as they show that though an individual’s personality bias is not easily intervened upon, serenity is a trait that can be enhanced in hopes of increasing adaptive behavioral emotion regulation.
Abstract: Research suggests that the positive affect system may be an important yet underexplored treatment target in anxiety and depression. Existing interventions primarily target the negative affect system, yielding modest effects on measures of positive emotions and associated outcomes (e.g., psychological well-being). The objective of the present pilot study was to evaluate the efficacy of a new transdiagnostic positive activity intervention (PAI) for anxiety and depression.Twenty-nine treatment-seeking individuals presenting with clinically impairing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression were randomly allocated to a 10-session protocol comprised of PAIs previously shown in nonclinical samples to improve positive thinking, emotions, and behaviors (e.g., gratitude, acts of kindness, optimism; n = 16) or a waitlist (WL) condition (n = 13). Participants were assessed at pre- and posttreatment, as well as 3- and 6-month follow-up, on measures of positive and negative affect, symptoms, and psychological well-being. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02330627 RESULTS: The PAI group displayed significantly larger improvements in positive affect and psychological well-being from pre- to posttreatment compared to WL. Posttreatment and follow-up scores in the PAI group were comparable to general population norms. The PAI regimen also resulted in significantly larger reductions in negative affect, as well as anxiety and depression symptoms, compared to WL. Improvements across all outcomes were large in magnitude and maintained over a 6-month follow-up period.Targeting the positive affect system through a multicomponent PAI regimen may be beneficial for generating improvements in positive emotions and well-being, as well as reducing negative affect and symptoms, in individuals with clinically impairing anxiety or depression.
Pub.: 07 Jan '17, Pinned: 19 Aug '17
Abstract: Authors: Kristin Layous ; Jaime Kurtz ; Joseph Chancellor ; Sonja Lyubomirsky Article URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2017.1279210?ai=z4&mi=3fqos0&af=R Citation: The Journal of Positive Psychology Publication Date: 2017-01-12T07:25:52Z Journal: Journal of Positive Psychology
Pub.: 12 Jan '17, Pinned: 19 Aug '17
Abstract: Although a great deal of research has tested the longitudinal effects of regularly practicing gratitude, much less attention has been paid to the emotional landscape directly following engagement in gratitude exercises. In three studies, we explored the array of discrete emotions people experience after being prompted to express or recall gratitude. In Studies 1 and 2, two different gratitude exercises produced not only greater feelings of gratitude relative to two positive emotion control conditions (i.e., recalling relief), but also higher levels of other socially relevant states like elevation, connectedness, and indebtedness. In a third study, conducted in both the U.S. and S. Korea, we compared a gratitude exercise to another positive emotion elicitation (i.e., recalling a kind act) and to a neutral task, and again found that the gratitude exercise prompted greater gratitude, elevation, indebtedness, and guilt, but no more embarrassment or shame, than the two comparison conditions. Additionally, in all three studies, emodiversity and cluster analyses revealed that gratitude exercises led to the simultaneous experience of both pleasant and unpleasant socially-relevant states. In sum, although it may seem obvious that gratitude exercises would evoke grateful, positive states, a meta-analysis of our three studies revealed that gratitude exercises actually elicit a mixed emotional experience-one that simultaneously leads individuals to feel uplifted and indebted.
Pub.: 08 Jul '17, Pinned: 19 Aug '17
Abstract: Few studies have examined physiological correlates of emotional reactivity and regulation in adolescents, despite the occurrence in this group of significant developmental changes in emotional functioning. The current study employed multiple physiological measures (i.e., startle-elicited eyeblink and ERP, skin conductance, facial EMG) to assess the emotional reactivity and regulation of 113 early adolescents in response to valenced images. Reactivity was measured while participants viewed images, and regulation was measured when they were asked to discontinue or maintain their emotional reactions to the images. Adolescent participants did not exhibit fear-potentiated startle blink. However, they did display affect-consistent zygomatic and corrugator activity during reactivity, as well as inhibition of some of these facial patterns during regulation. Skin conductance demonstrated arousal dependent activity during reactivity, and overall decreases during regulation. These findings suggest that early adolescents display reactivity to valenced pictures, but not to startle probes. Psychophysiological patterns during emotion regulation indicate additional effort and/or attention during the regulation process.
Pub.: 30 Jul '17, Pinned: 19 Aug '17
Abstract: Accumulating evidence suggests that social anxiety is associated with biased processing of positive social information. However, it remains to be determined whether those biases are simply correlates of, or play a role in maintaining social anxiety. The current study examined whether diminished attentional allocation for positive social cues mediates the link between social anxiety and anxiety reactivity to a social-evaluative task. Forty-three undergraduate students ranging in severity of social anxiety symptoms completed a baseline measure of attentional bias for positive social cues (i.e., modified probe detection task) and subsequently delivered an impromptu videotaped speech. Mediation analyses revealed that the tendency to allocate attention away from positive social stimuli mediated the effect of social anxiety on change in state anxiety in response to the stressor. The current findings add to a nascent empirical literature suggesting that aberrant processing of positive social information may contribute to the persistence of excessive social anxiety.
Pub.: 09 Mar '10, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Persistent, trauma-related intrusive thoughts are common in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Automatic aspects of cognitive functioning (including executive functioning) and maladaptive deliberate attempts at cognitive regulation have been proposed as individual difference factors that may perpetuate intrusive thoughts. The current study sought to examine the joint contribution of these two factors on intrusive thoughts in PTSD.Forty-two women with PTSD completed an executive functioning assessment followed by a thought suppression task. Intrusive thoughts (frequency and duration), as well as participants' use of specific cognitive regulation strategies (avoidance-based thought regulation strategies; TRS), were measured during the task. Hierarchical linear regression was used to examine the interaction of executive functioning and TRS on intrusive thoughts.Greater use of TRS was associated with greater intrusive thought persistence for those with low executive functioning, but not those with high executive functioning.Data was collected cross-sectionally and the laboratory thought suppression task may not correspond to naturalistic thought regulation.Results are consistent with prior literature suggesting that certain responses deployed by individuals to control intrusive thoughts may be unhelpful, but that a higher level of cognitive capacity may mitigate this effect. Implications of these findings for recent models of cognition in PTSD are discussed.
Pub.: 08 Jan '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is empirically supported for the treatment of anxiety disorders; however, not all individuals achieve recovery following CBT. Positive emotions serve a number of functions that theoretically should facilitate response to CBT - they promote flexible patterns of information processing and assimilation of new information, encourage approach-oriented behavior, and speed physiological recovery from negative emotions. We conducted a secondary analysis of an existing clinical trial dataset to test the a priori hypothesis that individual differences in trait positive emotions would predict CBT response for anxiety.Participants meeting diagnostic criteria for panic disorder (n = 28) or generalized anxiety disorder (n = 31) completed 10 weekly individual CBT sessions. Trait positive emotionality was assessed at pre-treatment, and severity of anxiety symptoms and associated impairment was assessed throughout treatment.Participants who reported a greater propensity to experience positive emotions at pre-treatment displayed the largest reduction in anxiety symptoms as well as fewer symptoms following treatment. Positive emotions remained a robust predictor of change in symptoms when controlling for baseline depression severity.Initial evidence supports the predictive value of trait positive emotions as a prognostic indicator for CBT outcome in a GAD and PD sample.
Pub.: 28 Mar '17, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Exposure therapy, a gold-standard treatment for anxiety disorders, is assumed to work via extinction learning, but this has never been tested. Anxious individuals demonstrate extinction learning deficits, likely related to less ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and more amygdala activation, but the relationship between these deficits and exposure outcome is unknown. We tested whether anxious individuals who demonstrate better extinction learning report greater anxiety reduction following brief exposure.Twenty-four adults with public speaking anxiety completed (1) functional magnetic resonance imaging during a conditioning paradigm, (2) a speech exposure session, and (3) anxiety questionnaires before and two weeks postexposure. Extinction learning was assessed by comparing ratings to a conditioned stimulus (neutral image) that was previously paired with an aversive noise against a stimulus that had never been paired. Robust regression analyses examined whether brain activation during extinction learning predicted anxiety reduction two weeks postexposure.On average, the conditioning paradigm resulted in acquisition and extinction effects on stimulus ratings, and the exposure session resulted in reduced anxiety two weeks post-exposure. Consistent with our hypothesis, individuals with better extinction learning (less negative stimulus ratings), greater activation in vmPFC, and less activation in amygdala, insula, and periaqueductal gray reported greater anxiety reduction two weeks postexposure.To our knowledge, this is the first time that the theoretical link between extinction learning and exposure outcome has been demonstrated. Future work should examine whether extinction learning can be used as a prognostic test to determine who is most likely to benefit from exposure therapy.
Pub.: 06 Dec '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Our view is that fundamental appetitive and defensive motivation systems evolved to mediate a complex array of adaptive behaviors that support the organism's drive to survive-defending against threat and securing resources. Activation of these motive systems engages processes that facilitate attention allocation, information intake, sympathetic arousal, and, depending on context, will prompt tactical actions that can be directed either toward or away from the strategic goal, whether defensively or appetitively determined. Research from our laboratory that measures autonomic, central, and somatic reactions when processing emotional scenes is described which indicates that motivationally relevant cues, whether appetitive or defensive, capture attention preferentially, prompt enhanced perceptual processing and information gathering, and occasion metabolic arousal that mobilizes the organism for coping actions.
Pub.: 01 Oct '13, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Approach and avoidance motivation may represent important explanatory constructs in understanding how individuals differ. Such constructs have primarily been assessed in self-reported terms, but there are limitations to self-reports of motivation. Accordingly, the present review concentrates on the potential utility of implicit cognitive-behavioral probes of approach and avoidance motivation in modeling and understanding individual differences. The review summarizes multiple lines of research that have documented the utility of such probes to the personality-processing interface. Although multiple gaps to our knowledge exist, and are acknowledged, the value of such implicit cognitive-behavioral assessments is emphasized both in modeling multiple sub-components of approach and avoidance motivation and in showing that such tendencies matter in ways that transcend momentary experiences or manipulations.
Pub.: 14 Nov '13, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Empathy facilitates everyday social interactions and has often been linked in the literature to prosocial behavior. Robust evidence has been found for a positive relationship between experiencing empathy and behaving prosocially. However, empathy, and the empathy–prosocial behavior relationship in particular, has been studied mostly in combination with negative emotions. Less research has been conducted on empathy for positive emotions, and the link between positive empathy and displayed prosocial behavior has not been intensively investigated so far. The purpose of the present article is thus twofold: first, we review and summarize research evidence on empathy for positive emotions, and second, we propose that people’s motivation to maintain an experienced positive affect is a viable mechanism linking positive empathy and prosocial behavior.
Pub.: 31 Mar '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: In this commentary, we consider how Balcetis’s proposals may interface with the study of motivation and emotion in lifespan developmental psychology, pointing to open questions regarding the distance perception of long-term chronic goals as well as age-related shifts from informational to emotional goals.
Pub.: 31 Mar '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Until now, adult crying has received relatively little interest from investigators, whereas in the popular media there are many strong claims about crying (e.g., crying brings relief) of which the scientific basis is not clear. In this review, we provide an overview of the current state of the scientific literature with respect to crying. We identify gaps in knowledge and propose questions for future research. The following topics receive special attention: Ontogenetic development, antecedents, individual and gender differences, and the intra- and interindividual effects of crying. We conclude that the study of crying may help us obtain better insight into human nature, that is, not only our emotional, but also social, and moral functioning.
Pub.: 05 Jul '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: George Lakoff (2016) discusses how emotion metaphors reflect the discrete bodily states associated with each emotion. The analysis raises questions about the context for and frequency of use of emotion metaphors and, indeed, emotion labels (e.g., "angry"), per se. An assumption implicit to most theories of emotion is that emotion language is just another channel through which people express ongoing emotion states. Drawing from recent evidence that labeling ongoing emotions reduces their intensity, we propose that a primary function of emotion language is regulatory rather than expressive.
Pub.: 05 Jul '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: The current meta-analysis reviews 24 studies on self-reported emotional reactions to facial expressions (social rejection, social acceptance, and neutral) in socially anxious versus nonanxious individuals. We hypothesized that socially anxious individuals would perceive all face types as less approachable, more negative, and more arousing. After correcting for biases, results showed that socially anxious individuals, compared to controls, reported lower approachability to all types of expressions and higher arousal in response to neutral expressions. Variances among effects usually could not be explained by the proposed moderators. This suggests that current conceptualizations of social anxiety should take into account the willingness to approach social stimuli rather than global measures of emotion or arousal.
Pub.: 11 Oct '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Mestre, MacCann, Guil, and Roberts (2016) propose a model that suggests emotion regulation provides the mechanism through which ability emotional intelligence influences important outcomes. We argue that important nuance in our understanding of people’s choice of emotion regulation strategy can be gained by incorporating personality constructs such as trait emotional intelligence within this model.
Pub.: 11 Oct '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Previous research suggests a strong association of health indicators with self-report ability emotional intelligence (EI) and self-report mixed EI, but a weak or moderate association with performance-based ability EI measures. The size of the association for ability EI may be inaccurately estimated, because there has not been enough research on the relationship of ability EI to health outcomes to allow moderator analyses in meta-analyses. Therefore the present review aimed to synthesize results specifically from studies on the relationship of performance-based ability EI with depression and well-being across adult populations in different settings. We found that maximum-performance measures of ability EI are associated negatively with depression and positively with well-being, and that these associations are moderated and mediated by several factors, including gender and self-report EI. Our analysis highlights limitations in the evidence base and leads to recommendations for future research and for ability EI-based training programs.
Pub.: 11 Oct '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17