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Exaggerating Emotions: Physiological Correlates and Cognitive Consequences Brandon J. Schmeichel, Jennifer L. Robinson, and Heath A. Demaree Department.

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Presentation on theme: "Exaggerating Emotions: Physiological Correlates and Cognitive Consequences Brandon J. Schmeichel, Jennifer L. Robinson, and Heath A. Demaree Department."— Presentation transcript:

1 Exaggerating Emotions: Physiological Correlates and Cognitive Consequences Brandon J. Schmeichel, Jennifer L. Robinson, and Heath A. Demaree Department of Psychology Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH ( or ECG. ECG data were collected at the left and right wrists via disposable Ag-AgCl snap electrodes (Biopac Technologies Model EL503) and digitized at 500 samples per second onto a Dell Optiplex GX200 computer. Data were amplified by Biopac (Santa Barbara, CA) ECG100C amplifiers set for a gain of 1000 and using low- and high-pass filters of 35Hz and.05Hz, respectively. The heart period (HP) power spectrum was computed by Fast-Fourier Transform (FFT) and the data were linearly de-trended using the Mindware (Westerville, OH) HRV 1.62 computer application. To perform HRV analyses, the Mindware program a) identified the R-R intervals, b) detected physiologically improbably R-R intervals based on the overall R-R distribution using a validated algorithm (Berntson, Quigley, Jang, & Boysen, 1990), c) detrended the data using a first-order polynomial to remove the mean and any linear trends, d) cosine tapered the data and submitted it to FFT and e) took the natural log integral HF power (0.15 to 0.40Hz). HF power has been found to be good estimates of cardiac vagal control (Berntson et al., 1997; Task Force, 1996). Cognitive Performance Measures Verbal Fluency: The Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT; Benton, Hamsher, & Sivan, 1994 ). The verbal fluency task had participants generate as many words as they could in one minute that begin with a certain letter. “In the next 60 seconds, tell me as many words as you can that start with the letter F”. We had participants do this task three times, using the letters F, A, and S. Figural Fluency: The Ruff Figural Fluency Test (RFF; Ruff, 1988). The figural fluency test had participants draw as many unique designs as they could in one minute based on an arrangement of 5 dots. “In the next 60 seconds, draw as many unique (not repeated) arrangements as you can by simply connecting the dots with straight lines”. We had participants do this task 3 times, using 3 different dot arrangements. Results and Discussion HYPOTHESIS 1 was that exaggerating responses to positive- and negative- affective clips would be associated with increased sympathetic nervous system arousal. We performed a 2 (Film Clip Type: Amusement or Disgust) x 2 (Viewing Condition: Exaggerate or Natural) MANOVA on IBI and sympathovagal balance (LF/HF; log integral LF power [0.04 to 0.15Hz] divided by HF power [0.15 to 0.40Hz]. We subtracted baseline values from during-film values on these measures to represent physiological reactivity to the films and viewing instructions. No main effects or interactions involving film clip type were observed, Fs < 1.25, ns. The MANOVA did reveal main effects for viewing condition on LF/HF reactivity, F (1, 99) = 9.45, p <.01, and IBI reactivity, F (1, 99) = 21.90, p <.01. Specifically, exaggerating emotional reactions was associated with decreased IBI (exaggerate M = -3.23, SD = vs. natural viewing M = 44.06, SD = 55.10) and increased LF/HF ratios (i.e, increased sympathovagal balance; exaggerate M = 1.79, SD = 3.51 vs. natural viewing M = -0.31, SD = 3.40). Thus, exaggerating both disgust and amusement reactions was associated with increased sympathetic arousal. See Figures 1 and 2, below. HYPOTHESIS 2 was that exaggerating responses would be associated with poorer verbal and figural fluency following the exaggeration attempt. We performed a 2 (Film Clip Type) x 2 (Viewing Instructions) MANOVA on z-transformed scores on the verbal and figural fluency tests. Although performance on both of the cognitive tests was influenced by the viewing instructions, F (1, 95) = 7.91, p <.01, planned comparisons revealed that exaggerating negative responses impaired both figural and verbal fluency whereas exaggerating positive responses did not alter fluency performance. Exaggerating disgust responses resulted in fewer figures generated on the subsequent figural fluency test (M = 59.21, SD = 10.58) compared to viewing the negative affect clip naturally (M = 70.46, SD = 12.24), t (48) = 3.47, p <.01. Also, exaggerating disgust responses had a marginal effect on subsequent verbal fluency performance, such that exaggerators generated fewer words (M = 37.63, SD = 9.25) than those in the natural viewing condition (M = 42.31, SD = 8.09), t (48) = 1.91, p =.06. However, exaggerating amusement reactions did not significantly influence subsequent verbal fluency performance (M = 37.54, SD = 8.14) compared to viewing the positive affect clip naturally (M = 41.11, SD = 12.33), t (51) = 1.24, p =.22, although means were in the predicted direction. Further, figural fluency performance after the positive affect clip did not differ between exaggerate (M = 65.54, SD = 9.34) and natural viewing (M = 64.19, SD = 11.60) conditions, t < 1. Thus, exaggerating positive affect did not have reliable effects on subsequent verbal or figural fluency. See figures 3 and 4, below. Abstract Emotion exaggeration has been an understudied affect regulation strategy. The present research explored physiological (autonomic) correlates and cognitive consequences of exaggerating positive and negative affect. Participants viewed either a disgust- or amusement-eliciting clip and were instructed either to react naturally or to exaggerate their emotional response. Participants who exaggerated their reactions showed increased heart rate and increased sympathovagal reactivity relative to participants who were not instructed to exaggerate their reactions. Exaggerating emotional responses also led to poorer performance on subsequent tests of verbal and figural fluency. The adverse effect of emotion exaggeration on subsequent cognition was most evident when participants exaggerated disgust reactions. Cognitive performance after emotion regulation supported predictions derived from the limited resource model of self-regulation (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). Further, cognitive deficits were not mediated by the increased HR and increased sympathovagal reactivity associated with exaggeration. Introduction Importance  Exaggerating emotional responses may be a useful interpersonal tool Example: “ I really like your new haircut!”  However, actively exaggerating responses may have undesirable consequences. Physiological: Increased autonomic nervous system arousal Cognitive: Controlling emotions may deplete limited regulatory resources  Thus, we assessed physiological and cognitive effects of exaggerating emotional responding. Hypotheses  1 : Active emotion exaggeration will be associated with increased sympathetic nervous system arousal (shorter intervals between heart beats, higher ratio of sympathetic to parasympathetic activation), similar to the arousal observed when people try to suppress emotional reactions (e.g., Gross, 1998).  2 : Exaggerating emotional reactions (both positive and negative) will lead to poorer performance on subsequent tests of high-level cognitive control because emotion regulation depletes limited self-regulatory resources (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). Specifically, verbal and figural fluency should suffer after active emotion exaggeration. Study Participants/Design One hundred eleven undergraduate students (54 females and 57 males) at CWRU participated in exchange for course credit. Data from 8 participants were discarded because of unreadable or incomplete physiological data. Participants were randomly assigned to condition in a 2 (Film Clip: Disgusting or Amusing) x 2 (Viewing Instructions: Natural or Exaggerate) between-participants factorial design. Procedures We had participants watch an amusing or a disgusting film clip, and we instructed participants to watch the clip naturally or try to exaggerate their emotional reactions to the clip. After the film clip, participants completed tests of verbal fluency and figural fluency so that we could determine whether exaggerating emotional reactions had adverse cognitive consequences. Measures/Stimuli Film Clips. After a 10 minute acclimation period and a 2-minute physiological baseline recording period, the assigned 2-minute film clip started. Half the participants saw a negative affect clip that depicted gruesome scenes from an animal slaughterhouse taken from the film Faces of Death (James, Scott, & Good, 1978). The other half saw a positive affect clip that depicted a series of humorous scenes taken from the TV broadcast 50 Years of NBC Latenite (Michaels, 2002). These clips reliably elicit disgust and amusement, respectively. Emotion Regulation Manipulation. Prior to viewing the assigned film clip, participants in the exaggerate condition were instructed to exaggerate their reactions to the film clip so that “if somebody watched (your face) they would know exactly what you were feeling.” Participants in the natural viewing condition were instructed to “watch the clip as naturally as you can. Try to pretend that you’re sitting at home watching TV.” Conclusions Exaggerating amusement and disgust reactions was associated with increased sympathetic nervous system arousal. Furthermore, exaggerating disgust reactions impaired subsequent cognitive performance measured by tests of verbal and figural fluency. The effects of response exaggeration mimic those of response suppression. Both forms of response-focused emotion regulation are associated with increased sympathetic arousal, and both the suppression and exaggeration of emotional responses have been linked to decrements in subsequent high-level cognition (see also Schmeichel, Vohs, & Baumeister, 2003). Perhaps similarities in these two apparently disparate forms of response-focused regulation are due to their shared self- regulatory component. References Benton A. L., Hamsher K. deS., & Sivan A. B. (1994). Multilingual Aphasia Examination. Iowa City: AJA Associates. Berntson, G. G., Bigger, J. T., Jr., Eckberg, D. L., Grossman, P., Kaufmann, P. G., Malik, M., Nagaraja, H. N., Porges, S. W., Saul, J. P., Stone, P. H., & van der Molen, M. W. (1997). Heart rate variability: Origins, methods, and interpretive caveats. Psychophysiology, 34, Berntson, G. G., Quigley, K. S., Jang, J., & Boysen, S. T. (1990). An approach to artifact detection: Application to heart period data. Psychophysiology, 27, Gross, J. J. (1998). Antecedent- and response-focused emotion regulation: Divergent consequences for experience, expression, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, James, W. B., Scott, R. T., & Good, P. B. (Producers). (1978). Faces of Death [Video Recording]. (Available from Gorgon Video, South 108th Avenue, Orland Park, IL 60467) Michaels, L. (Executive Producer). (2002). 50 Years of NBC Latenight [Television Broadcast]. New York: National Broadcasting Company. Muraven, M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle? Psychological Bulletin, 126, Ruff, R. M. (1988). Ruff Figural Fluency Test administration manual. San Diego: Neuropsychological Resources. Schmeichel, B. J., Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (2003). Intellectual performance and ego depletion: Role of the self in logical reasoning and other information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, Task Force. (1996). Heart rate variability: Standards of measurement, physiological interpretation, and clinical use. European Heart Journal, 17, Figure 3. Figural Fluency Performance as a Function of Film Clip Type and Viewing Condition. Figure 4. Verbal Fluency Performance as a Function of Film Clip Type and Viewing Condition. Figure 2. Change in Interbeat Interval (in ms). Figure 1. Change in ratio of sympathetic to parasympathetic activation.


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