Category: Adult Depression / Dysthymia
Maladaptive emotion regulation (ER) strategies (e.g., rumination) increase negative affect and mood-congruent attention allocation to negative stimuli (e.g., sad faces; Nolen-Hoeksema et al., 2008), which may maintain stable dysphoria (Beck, 1987). However, adaptive ER strategies (e.g., reappraisal) can moderate negative affect, reducing vulnerability for depression (Egloff, 2006). Research has shown that reappraisal use may be increased through instruction (Sanchez et al., 2016), yet effects of spontaneous versus instructed ER strategies on attention allocation are not well understood. To examine this, we had dysphoric (BDI-II = 13-19; n = 33) and non-dysphoric (BDI-II ≤ 6; n = 41) participants view two different sadness-inducing film clips, the first with spontaneous (i.e., no instruction) ER (Time 1), and the second with instructed reappraisal (Time 2). After viewing each clip, participants completed the State Emotion Regulation Questionnaire and then a modified dot-probe task, which assessed attention allocation toward emotional (i.e., sad or happy) or neutral faces (MacLeod et al., 1986). We hypothesized that, compared to the non-dysphoric group (NDG), 1) the dysphoric group (DG) would show greater attention allocation toward sad faces at T1 and 2) that prior spontaneous use of rumination would predict sad bias scores at T1, but not T2, due to T2 instructed reappraisal instructions. A manipulation check indicated that viewing the sadness-inducing films resulted in the intended effect. Contrary to H1, a 2 (Group: DG vs. NDG) x 2 (ER Condition: sponanteous vs. instructed reappraisal) mixed model ANOVA indicated no significant main effect of group on sad bias scores (F(1, 72) = .22, p = .64) or any significant interaction. H2 was also unsupported, as rumination failed to predict sad bias scores at T1 (r(72) = .13, p = .26), but unexpectedly predicted sad bias scores for both groups at T2 (r(72) = .24, p < .05). Further, hierarchical regression showed that T2 rumination accounted for 6% of the overall variance in subsequent T2 sad bias scores (F(1, 70) = 4.63, p < .05), after controlling for T1 sad bias score and group. Notably, test-retest reliability was low (r = .10), further suggesting that individuals' sad bias scores differed from T1 to T2. Overall, results indicate that regulating successive sad emotional experiences may increase likelihood for rumination to negatively bias attention, irrespective of dysphoria status, instructed reappraisal, or prior attention allocation. One possible explanation is that ER during the film clips resulted in cognitive fatigue, leaving fewer cognitive control resources to disengage attention from mood-congruent stimuli (Gunzelmann et al., 2011). Although more research is needed, findings suggest that clients who experience successive sad events might particularly benefit from techniques to reduce rumination (e.g., mindfulness-based CBT practices).
Kristin Boyd– University of Houston-Clear Lake
Jessica Balderas– Graduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas
Stephen Rogers– University of Houston-Clear Lake
Mary Short– University of Houston-Clear Lake
Steven Bistricky– University of Houston-Clear Lake