Pacini, Adele (2011) EMOTION SUPPRESSION AND ITS IMPACT ON POSITIVE EMOTION EXPERIENCE. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis aimed to examine the impact of emotion suppression of negative material
on subsequent reactivity to positive material with a group of MDD participants and
healthy controls. A mixed design laboratory based experiment was used, where in the
first condition participants firstly “just viewed” a sad film clip, and in the second
condition they suppressed their emotions to a different sad film clip. Before and after
each of the film clips, positive self referent and non self referent material was
presented. Based on findings from Dunn et al. (2009), Liverant et al. (2008), and
Kashdan and Breen (2008) it was suggested that the suppression of negative
emotional experience would down-regulate negative affect, but with the consequence
of reducing reactivity to subsequently presented material, including positive.
The underlying rationale was that alterations in emotion regulation, and
specifically, emotion suppression, may be a contributory factor in the processing
disturbances, which occur in MDD, particularly anhedonia. These ideas overlap with
current clinical thinking, where interventions such as Acceptance and Commitment
Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Mindfulness Based
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MCBT) have begun to target both emotion
regulation difficulties, and explore the role of acceptance of emotional experience, as
opposed to emotion suppression.
The results showed that there were no changes in reactivity to positive nonself
referent material as a function of emotion regulation type. However, the results
from the positive self referent material, showed that emotion suppression to negative
material influenced subsequent reactivity to it. For the control group, the results
replicated the findings from the Dunn et al. (2009) study. Namely, a consequence of
emotion suppression was the dampening of positive reactivity to positive self referent
material following suppression of emotions to a negative film clip. However, for the
MDD group, the opposite pattern was obtained, participants had a greater reduction in
positive reactivity following the view condition, compared to the suppress condition.
This effect occurred despite higher suppression effort reported following the suppress
With regard to emotion reactivity more generally, across both conditions,
there was significantly higher ratings of sadness to the positive memories in the MDD
group compared to the control group, there were also significantly lower ratings of
happiness to the positive images in the MDD group relative to the control group. With
regard to the negative videos, there was no evidence of elevated sadness from the
MDD in response to the negative videos; however the MDD group did report
significantly lower happiness ratings following the sad videos. These findings offered
support for both the positive attenuation view, and partially for the ECI hypothesis.
A number of interpretations of the data have been offered, with regard to the
differences between the control and MDD group on the effects of suppression. In
particular, the idea of “ego depletion” as a result of the suppress condition, with
subsequent implications for reactivity related to self control. Executive function
processes were implicated as generic processing factors, which are implicated both in
emotion regulation and in self control and self regulation.
The clinical implications from these results focused on the role of flexibility
and of habitual suppression in emotional experience. Finally, future research areas
were suggested, including examining the role of executive function load in a precise
way, and looking at the time course of emotional reactivity following specific types of

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
Depositing User: Users 2259 not found.
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2014 15:08
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2014 15:08
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/47938

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