Publication Date

2016-10-27

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2016-10-27

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2016-07-15

First Committee Member

Charles S. Carver

Second Committee Member

Matthias Siemer

Third Committee Member

Kiara R. Timpano

Fourth Committee Member

Heather Henderson

Fifth Committee Member

Bonnie Levin

Abstract

Studies have shown that cognitive reappraisal is an adaptive emotion regulation strategy. However, individuals differ in how effectively they use reappraisal to regulate negative emotions such as sadness. Cognitive processes, such as those involved in task-switching, inhibition, and attention, may influence how well an individual can utilize cognitive reappraisal. This study sought to investigate whether a cognitive process associated with reappraisal, affective flexibility (AF), could be trained and could improve an individual’s ability to effectively down-regulate sadness. Also examined were potential effects of AF training on symptoms of depression and anxiety, and transfer effects to emotional working memory. Healthy participants with no more than minimal depression were randomly assigned to either an active AF training or control training condition. Results indicated that the training versus control manipulation was ineffective. Participants across both groups exhibited reduced anxiety and improved emotional working memory. No effects of training on down-regulation of sadness using cognitive reappraisal were observed. Results may indicate that AF training has little effect on maladaptive emotion regulation in healthy controls. However, further examination of AF training within the context of anxiety disorders may be warranted.

Keywords

cognitive reappraisal; depression; anxiety; cognitive control training; executive functions

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