Affective processing in overwhelmed individuals: Strategic and task considerations

John G. Kerns, Howard Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research suggests that emotionally overwhelmed individuals (high affect intensity, intermediate attention to emotions, low clarity of emotions) attempt to counteract the influence of affective information. In five studies (ns = 129, 177, 119, 339, 261), the current research found that task performance in overwhelmed individuals varied by current arousal and by whether affective influence occurred on evaluative versus non evaluative tasks. Overwhelmed high current arousal participants exhibited decreased affective influence on evaluative tasks but increased affective influence on non-evaluative tasks. These results are consistent with the effects of active suppression of affective information, including ironic effects of monitoring for affective information. In contrast, overwhelmed low current arousal participants exhibited increased affective influence on evaluative tasks but decreased affective influence on non-evaluative tasks. These results are consistent with attentional avoidance of affective information. Overall, these results further suggest that overwhelmed individuals attempt to counteract the influence of affective information. Whether they are successful depends on their current arousal and how affect can influence performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-660
Number of pages23
JournalCognition and Emotion
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

Keywords

  • Affective priming
  • Affective processing
  • Attentional avoidance
  • Emotionally overwhelmed
  • Suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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