Given the same emotional stimulation, there are differences between people in the intensity of their affective responses. A good deal has already been learned about persons at the upper end of this emotional intensity dimension. However, because this research has been mainly validational, it has not asked why such individual differences exist and how the process of emotional amplification actually works. The long-term objectives of this research program are a) to test a theoretical model of individual differences in emotional intensity, and b) to examine the role of cognition in the process of emotional amplification. Specifically, it is proposed that emotional individuals are actually underaroused and thus use their emotions to regulate their arousal level upward. The regular experience of strong emotions has clear health-related consequences. Affect intensity correlates with psychosomatic difficulties, such as headache proneness, insomnia, stomach disorders, and panic reactions. Several studies address the general question of whether individual differences in emotional intensity are related to an arousal regulation need and whether individuals regulate their emotional reactions based on their current level of arousal and their standing on the affect intensity dimension. A related issue concerns how the process of emotional amplification works. Many investigators have proposed a role for cognition in influencing the intensity of emotions, although there is little agreement as to the specific cognitive mechanisms responsible for such influence. Several studies thus address the following goals: 1. The development of a preliminary taxonomy of cognitive control strategies used in the modulation of emotional reactivity, 2. an examination of the cognitive control strategies utilized by high versus low emotionally reactive individuals, and 3. a test of whether the emotional reactions of """"""""normal"""""""" subjects can be increased or decreased by manipulating their use of the cognitive control strategies identified in the above studies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Cognition, Emotion, and Personality Research Review Committee (CEP)
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Purdue University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
West Lafayette
United States
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Rusting, C L; Larsen, R J (1998) Diurnal patterns of unpleasant mood: associations with neuroticism, depression, and anxiety. J Pers 66:85-103
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