Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Jennifer Bolden

Committee Members

Lance Laurence, Todd Moore, Brian Wilhoit

Abstract

The experience of emotion and attempts to regulate it are universal human phenomena. Emotion regulation is used to alter the affective intensity or tone, behaviors, and consequences associated with an emotional experience. This study examined how two common emotional regulation strategies (mindfulness and distraction) affect attentional performance following a negative mood induction via film. While previous literature has compared emotional regulation strategies’ effects on a variety of outcomes, the efficacy of these strategies to reduce cognitive interference caused by negative mood has not been examined. Both mindfulness and distraction are hypothesized to occur through the Attention Deployment mechanism of the Attention phase of emotional experience (Gross, 2014), but they have not been directly compared. Participants received a brief (six-minute) training in mindfulness or distraction or will receive no instructions (control condition). Following an exposure to two sadness-inducing films, they completed a cognitive testing battery, which includes a continuous performance test of attention, a symboldigit coding task, and an emotionally valenced Stroop paradigm. Despite pre-test differences in self-ratings of sadness and happiness, the mindfulness training somewhat ameliorated the expected decrease in happiness following the negative mood induction. Mindfulness training also was associated with a trend towards better performance across several variables of the continuous performance test and self-corrections on the Stroop task. Individuals who received no emotion regulation instructions tended to perform more slowly on several cards of the Stroop task. Results provided limited support for efficacy of mindfulness training in reducing consequences of a negative mood induction on affect and cognitive performance. Future studies should examine the effect of longer-term interventions for emotion regulation and cognitive performance and more closely explore the path of emotional experience after emotion regulation interventions.

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