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Title:Immediate and long-term effects of emotion regulation: an eye-tracking investigation of focused attention on emotional experience and memory
Author(s):O'Brien, Margaret M.
Advisor(s):Dolcos, Florin
Contributor(s):Dolcos, Sanda; Buetti, Simona
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Emotion Regulation, Memory
Abstract:Emotional stimuli tend to capture attention and this may lead to an immediate increase in our subjective emotional experience, as well as to longer-term enhancing effects on our memory for emotional stimuli. In extreme circumstances, increased emotional reactivity to negative stimuli may become symptomatic of mental health problems, including depression or anxiety. One Emotion Regulation (ER) strategy (Focused Attention, FA) may be particularly suited to counteract these effects, by disrupting the automatic routing of attention to emotional components of stimuli. However, this strategy has been studied mainly in the context of immediate effects of emotion. The present research investigated both the immediate and long-term impact of FA as an ER strategy, using behavioral and eye-tracking measures in a two-part study. During part one, participants were shown a series of negative and neutral images, manipulated so that they had clearly distinguishable foreground (emotional or neutral) and background (always neutral) areas. Participants were instructed to look either at the foreground (FG) or background (BG) area of each image, while eye-tracking data were recorded, and then rate their emotional experiences. During part two, one week later, participants’ memory was assessed for both the FG areas (item memory) and their relation to the associated BG areas (relational memory). Eye-tracking results demonstrate that participants were successful in engaging in FA, and this was associated with decreased emotional experience in the BG Focus compared to FG Focus conditions for emotional images. Item memory results revealed that FA was successful in decreasing item memory for images viewed in BG Focus condition, although overall participants had increased memory for emotional items, which was driven by recollection-based retrieval. Relational memory results showed the opposite pattern, in that it was impaired for emotional images viewed in the FG Focus condition, possibly due to enhanced attentional capturing effects of emotion that disrupted processing of the associated BG areas. Interestingly, this effect occurred in the context of overall more emotional items being successfully retrieved together with their associated BG contexts. Taken together, these results indicate the promise of FA as an effective ER strategy, as well as shed light on seemingly discrepant evidence regarding the impact of emotion on different forms of memory.
Issue Date:2018-07-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Margaret O'Brien
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08

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