Emotional Reactivity, Negative Affect, and Executive Functioning: Does Physiology Matter?
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Emotional reactivity reflects the activation, intensity, and duration of an emotional event. Although it is well-established that emotional reactivity has negative implications on psychological functioning, studies have demonstrated that high emotional reactivity enhances executive functioning performance when in negative mood states. The underlying mechanisms that elicit these benefits remain less understood. The current study investigated the relationship between negative affect and executive functioning by examining the role of emotional reactivity through self-report questionnaires and objective physiological skin conductance measures. Participants completed a task of working memory embedded with emotional images, while electrodermal activity was recorded. Based on previous research, we predicted that individuals with high emotional reactivity would perform better on the working memory task when in a negative mood state compared to low-reactive individuals. At the physiological level, we hypothesized that high-reactive individuals would demonstrate higher phasic peaks to emotionally-laden content compared to low-reactive individuals. We also predicted that the underlying mechanism that would lead high-reactive individuals to experience better behavioural performance on the task would be a more rapid physiological habituation to the negative condition, as they would shift attention from the negative images back to the working memory task more quickly. Results indicated that high-reactive individuals actually performed worse in the negative condition compared to low-reactive individuals. Moreover, emotional reactivity did not predict skin conductance magnitudes. Finally, individuals with high emotional reactivity habituated to the negative condition more quickly than individuals with low-reactivity; however, more rapid habituation did not improve behavioural performance on the working memory task. We outline the implications of this work and provide suggestions for future research.
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Eleenor Abraham (2020). Emotional Reactivity, Negative Affect, and Executive Functioning: Does Physiology Matter?. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16115