Emotional responsivity in people high and low in trait positive affect
Gessner, Stacia N.
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Previous research has shown that individuals who report high levels of Trait Positive Affect (TPA) experience better mental and physical health outcomes than individuals low in TPA. The current study examined emotional responsivity in forty-five undergraduates who scored either high or low in trait positive affect. Participants' reactions to emotional stimuli were assessed in two phases, a startle testing phase in which affective modulation of startle was assessed while participants viewed emotional pictures, and a picture rating phase in which participants rated the pictures on dimensions of valence and arousal. Affective modulation of startle results revealed that for the high TPA group, emotional responses were significantly stronger to negative pictures compared to neutral or positive pictures. In contrast, those in the low TPA group responded equally to the three picture types. Results for the picture-rating phase revealed that the high TPA group rated negative pictures as more arousing than the low TPA group, but all other ratings were comparable between the groups. Overall, the results of this study indicate that people with high trait positive affect display a heightened emotional reaction to negative stimuli, as seen by self-rated arousal and affective modulation of startle. These results suggest several directions for future research that may further increase understanding of the protective nature of trait positive affect.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Review of literature -- Methodology -- Discussion -- Results -- Appendix A. IAPS picture numbers used in startle testing phase -- Appendix B. Tables