Category: X - Other - Not Fitting Better Elsewhere

PS11- #A31 - Ecological Momentary Assessment Provides New Insights Into the Interaction of Neuroticism and Daily Events

Saturday, Nov 18
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Ecological Momentary Assessment | Emotion | Risk / Vulnerability Factors

Neuroticism—the tendency to experience more frequent, intense, or persistent negative affect (NA)—is a fundamental dimension of childhood temperament and adult personality. Elevated neuroticism is a well-established, prospective risk factor for some of the most common and burdensome psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Yet, remarkably little is known about the factors that govern the moment-by-moment expression of neuroticism in the real world. Here, we harnessed smart phone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to understand the interaction of neuroticism and positive and negative daily events (PDEs, NDEs) in 72 first-year university students  (42% female; M = 19.00 years, SD = 0.30). We focused on this period of ‘emerging adulthood’ because it is a time of stressful transitions that often precipitate frank psychopathology. Because EMA data are captured in real time, they circumvent the biases that can distort retrospective reports and can provide insights into how emotional experience dynamically responds to real-world events. Subjects were selectively recruited from a much larger pool of previously screened individuals (n = 2,429), enabling us to capture a broad range of neuroticism, from very high to very low. Subjects completed up to 8 mobile surveys per day for 7 days, yielding a total 3,473 usable surveys. As expected, multilevel modeling indicated that NDEs amplified NA and attenuated positive affect (PA), whereas PDEs exerted the reverse effect (ps < .05). In the absence of PDE/NDEs, more neurotic individuals experienced higher levels of NA and lower levels of PA (ps < .05), suggesting tonic (‘endogeneous’) differences in mood. Interestingly, neurotic individuals also proved more reactive to both NDEs and PDEs (ps < .05), showing larger emotional costs following NDEs (increased NA/decreased PA) and larger emotional benefits following PDEs (decreased NA/increased PA). Exploratory analyses focused on two facets of our NA composite (anxious and depressed mood) revealed the identical pattern. Finally, neuroticism was unrelated to PDE/NDA frequency (ps > .32), suggesting that the interactive consequences of neuroticism and daily events do not reflect biases in reporting, exposure, or ‘stress generation.’ Collectively, these observations indicate that individuals endowed with a more neurotic disposition are more reactive to both positive and negative events in their daily lives. These findings provide novel insights into factors governing the expression of personality in the real-world and set the stage for developing improved intervention strategies.             

Allegra S. Anderson

Project Coordinator
University of Maryland, College Park
Silver Spring, Maryland

Matthew G. Barstead

Graduate Student
University of Maryland, College Park

Kathryn D. DeYoung

Director of Laboratory Operations
University of Maryland, College Park

Alexander J. Shackman

Laboratory Director
University of Maryland, College Park