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Publication Date

2012-07-03

Availability

UM campus only

Embargo Period

2012-07-03

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2011-05-25

First Committee Member

Matthias Siemer

Second Committee Member

Jutta Joormann

Third Committee Member

Heather Henderson

Fourth Committee Member

Michael McCullough

Fifth Committee Member

David Loewenstein

Abstract

Psychological resilience implies the ability to adapt to changing life situations. The current study explored the cognitive processes that may promote real-life resilient outcomes (i.e. the experience of more positive and less negative affect) in response to daily stressors. Higher-level cognitive emotion regulation strategies (reappraisal and rumination) and lower-level executive function processes were investigated. It was hypothesized that use of reappraisal would moderate the relation between daily stress and positive mood, and use of rumination would moderate the association between daily stress and negative mood. It was expected that cognitive flexibility in processing affective material (i.e. flexible affective processing) would predict real-life resilient outcomes as well as use of emotion regulation strategies over and above other executive function processes. Undergraduates (N = 157) participated in a laboratory session and completed four computer tasks, including a traditional (non-affective) cognitive flexibility task, a flexible affective processing task with affective words, a novel flexible affective processing task with affective pictures, and a working memory task. Participants were then asked to complete a six-day diary study in which they were instructed to respond to items online each evening that assessed the following: mood at the end of the day, daily stress, and use of both reappraisal and rumination in response to the most unpleasant event of the day. Since data obtained from the current study included multiple daily observations nested within people, a multilevel random coefficient modeling (MRCM) approach was employed. As hypothesized, rumination use played a moderating role; high use of rumination exacerbated the effects of daily stress on negative mood whereas low use of rumination buffered the effects of stress on negative mood. Results demonstrated that use of reappraisal predicted positive mood regardless of the overall stress-level of the day. Overall performance on the flexible affective processing tasks was not associated with real-life resilient responses or use of emotion regulation strategies. Additional analyses (with the novel picture task) revealed, however, that the specific ability to quickly switch towards positive material predicted positive mood in daily life and the tendency to quickly switch away from positive stimuli predicted use of rumination in response to stress. Importantly, poor cognitive control in response to negative pictorial stimuli predicted negative mood; this association was mediated by the use of rumination. Limitations and future directions are addressed.

Keywords

Emotion regulation; resilience; reappraisal; rumination

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