The Impact of Experiential Avoidance on the Inference of Characters’ Emotions: Evidence for an Emotional Processing Bias
Experiential avoidance is a functional class of maladaptive strategies that contribute to the development and maintenance of psychopathology. Although previous research has demonstrated group differences in the interpretation of aversive stimuli, there is limited work on the influence of experiential avoidance during the online processing of emotion. An experimental design was used to investigate the influence of self-reported experiential avoidance during emotion processing by assessing emotion inferences during the comprehension of narratives that imply different emotions. Results suggest that experiential avoidance is partially characterized by an emotional information processing bias. Specifically, individuals reporting higher experiential avoidance scores exhibited a bias towards activating negative emotion inferences, whereas individuals reporting lower experiential avoidance scores exhibited a bias towards activating positive emotion inferences. Minimal emotional inference was observed for the non-bias affective valence. Findings are discussed in terms of the implications of experiential avoidance as a cognitive vulnerability for psychopathology.
KeywordsExperiential avoidance Emotion knowledge activation Emotion bias Cognitive vulnerability
Data were collected while the first author was a graduate student at Northern Illinois University. We would like to thank M. Anne Britt, Ph.D. and Holly K. Orcutt, Ph.D. for comments on an early version of this project. Preparation of this manuscript was partially supported by grant T32 AG000030–31 from the National Institutes of Health.
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