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Emotion - Vol 17, Iss 8

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Emotion Emotion publishes significant contributions to the study of emotion from a wide range of theoretical traditions and research domains. Emotion includes articles that advance knowledge and theory about all aspects of emotional processes, including reports of substantial empirical studies, scholarly reviews, and major theoretical articles.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • The impact of uncertain threat on affective bias: Individual differences in response to ambiguity.
    Individuals who operate under highly stressful conditions (e.g., military personnel and first responders) are often faced with the challenge of quickly interpreting ambiguous information in uncertain and threatening environments. When faced with ambiguity, it is likely adaptive to view potentially dangerous stimuli as threatening until contextual information proves otherwise. One laboratory-based paradigm that can be used to simulate uncertain threat is known as threat of shock (TOS), in which participants are told that they might receive mild but unpredictable electric shocks while performing an unrelated task. The uncertainty associated with this potential threat induces a state of emotional arousal that is not overwhelmingly stressful, but has widespread—both adaptive and maladaptive—effects on cognitive and affective function. For example, TOS is thought to enhance aversive processing and abolish positivity bias. Importantly, in certain situations (e.g., when walking home alone at night), this anxiety can promote an adaptive state of heightened vigilance and defense mobilization. In the present study, we used TOS to examine the effects of uncertain threat on valence bias, or the tendency to interpret ambiguous social cues as positive or negative. As predicted, we found that heightened emotional arousal elicited by TOS was associated with an increased tendency to interpret ambiguous cues negatively. Such negative interpretations are likely adaptive in situations in which threat detection is critical for survival and should override an individual’s tendency to interpret ambiguity positively in safe contexts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Social anxiety is characterized by biased learning about performance and the self.
    People learn about their self from social information, and recent work suggests that healthy adults show a positive bias for learning self-related information. In contrast, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by a negative view of the self, yet what causes and maintains this negative self-view is not well understood. Here the authors use a novel experimental paradigm and computational model to test the hypothesis that biased social learning regarding self-evaluation and self-feelings represents a core feature that distinguishes adults with SAD from healthy controls. Twenty-one adults with SAD and 35 healthy controls (HCs) performed a speech in front of 3 judges. They subsequently evaluated themselves and received performance feedback from the judges and then rated how they felt about themselves and the judges. Affective updating (i.e., change in feelings about the self over time, in response to feedback from the judges) was modeled using an adapted Rescorla-Wagner learning model. HCs demonstrated a positivity bias in affective updating, which was absent in SAD. Further, self-performance ratings revealed group differences in learning from positive feedback—a difference that endured at an average of 1 year follow up. These findings demonstrate the presence and long-term endurance of positively biased social learning about the self among healthy adults, a bias that is absent or reversed among socially anxious adults. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Influences of oxytocin and respiratory sinus arrhythmia on emotions and social behavior in daily life.
    The literature concerning biological influences on positive social behavior shows that, in nonthreatening contexts, tonic oxytocin (OT) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) each predict positive, affiliative behaviors toward certain others and are associated with positive health outcomes. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the degree to which the positive affiliative correlates of OT and RSA can be distinguished when observed at the level of everyday life events. A sample of midlife adults (N = 73) provided tonic indices of these biological characteristics, as well as perceptions of a variety of common life events alongside reports of their emotions during those events. OT and RSA each independently moderated the link between perceived event sociality and positive emotions, whereas only RSA predicted the probability of being with other people during an event. These findings suggest that OT and RSA may each be linked to positive social experiences in complementary yet distinct ways. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Clustering by well-being in workplace social networks: Homophily and social contagion.
    Social interaction among employees is crucial at both an organizational and individual level. Demonstrating the value of recent methodological advances, 2 studies conducted in 2 workplaces and 2 countries sought to answer the following questions: (a) Do coworkers interact more with coworkers who have similar well-being? and, if yes, (b) what are the processes by which such affiliation occurs? Affiliation was assessed via 2 methodologies: a commonly used self-report measure (i.e., mutual nominations by coworkers) complemented by a behavioral measure (i.e., sociometric badges that track physical proximity and social interaction). We found that individuals who share similar levels of well-being (e.g., positive affect, life satisfaction, need satisfaction, and job satisfaction) were more likely to socialize with one another. Furthermore, time-lagged analyses suggested that clustering in need satisfaction arises from mutual attraction (homophily), whereas clustering in job satisfaction and organizational prosocial behavior results from emotional contagion. These results suggest ways in which organizations can physically and socially improve their workplace. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Trait acceptance predicts fewer daily negative emotions through less stressor-related rumination.
    People who are more accepting of their thoughts and feelings experience fewer negative emotions. Although several studies document the connection between acceptance and negative emotions, little, if any research, sheds light on how being receptive to one’s internal experience results in less negativity in everyday life. In a daily diary study (N = 183), we found that people who were more accepting of their thoughts and feelings experienced fewer daily negative emotions, and this association was partly explained by less daily stressor-related rumination. The strength of this mediational pathway differed depending upon the average perceived severity of daily stressors. When daily stressors were perceived to be more demanding, trait acceptance predicted a stronger inverse association with rumination, and rumination predicted a stronger positive association with negative emotions. These results shed light on one way acceptance of internal experience predicts less negativity, as well as the moderating role of perceived daily stress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Gently does it: Humans outperform a software classifier in recognizing subtle, nonstereotypical facial expressions.
    According to dominant theories of affect, humans innately and universally express a set of emotions using specific configurations of prototypical facial activity. Accordingly, thousands of studies have tested emotion recognition using sets of highly intense and stereotypical facial expressions, yet their incidence in real life is virtually unknown. In fact, a commonplace experience is that emotions are expressed in subtle and nonprototypical forms. Such facial expressions are at the focus of the current study. In Experiment 1, we present the development and validation of a novel stimulus set consisting of dynamic and subtle emotional facial displays conveyed without constraining expressers to using prototypical configurations. Although these subtle expressions were more challenging to recognize than prototypical dynamic expressions, they were still well recognized by human raters, and perhaps most importantly, they were rated as more ecological and naturalistic than the prototypical expressions. In Experiment 2, we examined the characteristics of subtle versus prototypical expressions by subjecting them to a software classifier, which used prototypical basic emotion criteria. Although the software was highly successful at classifying prototypical expressions, it performed very poorly at classifying the subtle expressions. Further validation was obtained from human expert face coders: Subtle stimuli did not contain many of the key facial movements present in prototypical expressions. Together, these findings suggest that emotions may be successfully conveyed to human viewers using subtle nonprototypical expressions. Although classic prototypical facial expressions are well recognized, they appear less naturalistic and may not capture the richness of everyday emotional communication. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • No impact of affective person knowledge on visual awareness: Evidence from binocular rivalry and continuous flash suppression.
    Stimuli with intrinsic emotional value, like emotional faces, and stimuli associated with reward and punishment are often prioritized in visual awareness relative to neutral stimuli. Recently, Anderson, Siegel, Bliss-Moreau, and Barrett (2011) demonstrated that simply associating a face with affective knowledge can also influence visual awareness. Using a binocular rivalry task (BR), where a face was shown to one eye and a house to the other, they found that faces paired with negative versus neutral and positive behaviors dominated visual awareness. We were interested in whether faces associated with negative information would also be capable of reaching awareness more quickly in the first place. To test this, we set out to replicate Anderson and colleagues’ finding and to examine whether it would extend to breaking continuous flash suppression (b-CFS), a technique where a dynamic mask shown to one eye initially suppresses the stimulus shown to the other eye. Participants completed a learning task followed by BR and b-CFS tasks, in counterbalanced order. Across both tasks, faces associated with negative behaviors were treated no differently from faces associated with neutral or positive behaviors. However, faces associated with any type of behavior were prioritized in awareness over novel faces. These findings indicate that while familiarity influences conscious perception, the influence of affective person knowledge on visual awareness is more circumscribed than previously thought. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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