Intensity of positive and negative emotions: Explaining the association between personality and depressive symptoms

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11 Citations (Scopus)


The aim was to examine to what extent emotional intensity accounted for associations between the Big Five personality dimensions and depressive symptoms. Study 1 tested the model cross-sectionally, using survey data of 266 Dutch social science students. Study 2 experimentally examined how personality dimensions were related to emotional reactivity after exposure to various emotional stimuli. Dutch psychology students (N = 130) reported on their personality and viewed an amusing or sad film clip, after which the change in intensity of experienced positive and negative emotions was assessed. Individuals scoring higher on neuroticism generally experienced more intense negative emotions, through which they experienced a higher level of depressive symptoms. Individuals who were more agreeable experienced a lower level of depressive symptoms indirectly through higher general intensity of positive emotions. More agreeable individuals showed stronger increase in negative emotions and stronger decrease in positive emotions, though after exposure to the sad stimulus only. Although replication is needed, our results offer empirical support for a more taylor-made approach in decreasing nonclinical depressive symptoms taking into account both personality characteristics and emotion regulation.
► Emotional intensity mediated the relation between neuroticism and depressive symptoms.
► Intensity of negative emotions in high neurotic individuals was unaffected by stimuli.
► High agreeable individuals had few depressive symptoms via higher positive emotions.
► High agreeable individuals were emotional reactive when exposed to a sad stimulus.
Keywords: Personality, Big Five, Emotional intensity, Positive emotions, Negative emotions, Depressive symptoms
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-220
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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