Category: Adult Anxiety

PS2- #A23 - Language and Emotion Knowledge as Predictors of Reactivity to State Inductions of Relaxation, Worry, and Panic

Friday, Nov 17
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Emotion | Emotion Regulation | Adult Anxiety

Psychological constructionists (e.g., Barrett, 2006) posit that language shapes emotional experience by constraining how affective states are conceptualized as they are happening. This study examined general vocabulary and conceptual semantic-based emotion knowledge as predictors of reactivity to state inductions of worry, panic and relaxation. After completing the vocabulary subset of the Shipley Institute of Living Scales of Intelligence (SIL-V; Shipley, 1940) 149 adults (71.1% females, 49.7% Caucasian) ages 18-30 completed a Semantic Similarities Task (Barrett, 2004) rating the similarity of 16 emotion words on the basis of the meanings of the words. Multidimensional scaling provided estimates of the degree to which participants weighted information about valence and arousal in their understanding of emotion language. Participants then completed ratings of Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS; Wolpe, 1990) and current feelings of valence and arousal using the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM; Bradley & Lang, 1994; Lang, 1980). Participants were then randomly assigned to complete one of three state inductions. Participants in the worry group were asked to worry about topics they tend to worry about for 3 minutes, participants in the panic group were asked to breathe rapidly in and out of a paper bag for 3 minutes, and participants in the relaxation group were prompted to close their eyes and breathe deeply for 3 minutes. Participants completed SUDS and SAMS ratings after the induction and then again after completing another task (not part of present study). Multilevel regression analyses revealed several Condition (Relaxation, Worry, Panic) x Phase (Baseline, Manipulation Check, Post) x Language interactions. For instance, SIL-V scores predicted larger increases in SUDS scores from baseline to manipulation check for the panic condition (p < .001), but not for the relaxation (p = .750) and worry (p = .173) conditions. SIL-V scores were also associated with a greater decrease in SAM arousal ratings from baseline to manipulation check (p = .049) for only the relaxation condition and a greater decrease in SAM valence for the panic condition only. These findings suggest that those with a better general vocabulary exhibited stronger responses to the panic and relaxation inductions than those with a poorer vocabulary. These findings support the psychological constructionist hypothesis that language impacts emotional experience. In the proposed poster we will present a more comprehensive evaluation of the impact of language on emotional experience by explicating how the structure of one’s semantic-based emotional knowledge impacts reactions to the inductions.

Alexandra Dick

Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology
Suffolk University, Massachusetts

Katharine Smidt

Graduate Psychologist
National Center for PTSD, Behavioral Sciences Division at VA Boston Healthcare System
Boston, Massachusetts

Michael Suvak

Associate Professor of Psychology
Suffolk University
Boston, Massachusetts