Updating in working memory predicts greater emotion reactivity to and facilitated recovery from negative emotion-eliciting stimuli

Madeline L Pe, Peter Koval, Marlies Houben, Yasemin Erbas, Dominique Champagne, Peter Kuppens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

That emotions change in response to emotion-eliciting events is a natural part of human life. However, it is equally important for emotions to return to baseline once the emotion-eliciting events have passed. This suggests that the ability to emotionally react to and recover from emotion-eliciting events is critical for healthy psychological functioning. But why do individuals differ in their emotion reactivity and recovery? The present work postulates that the ability to update emotional information in working memory (WM) may explain individual differences in emotion reactivity and recovery. Two studies are presented, which examined whether updating ability was related to emotion reactivity and recovery. In Study 1, we assessed participants' self-reported affect as they viewed negative and positive films. Our results revealed that better updating ability was related to greater emotion reactivity and facilitated (i.e., quicker) recovery from watching negative films. In Study 2, participants recalled a recent angering event, and were then instructed to either ruminate about or reappraise the event. Results revealed that updating ability was again related to greater emotion reactivity and facilitated (i.e., successful) emotion recovery in response to the angering event, and that this was unrelated to the emotion regulation strategy used. These findings identify the ability to update emotional information in WM as a possible mechanism in emotion responding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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