Recent research has highlighted the importance of testing interactions between adaptive and maladaptive emotion regulation strategies when examining their associations with mental health. However, there has been little work on the interaction between adaptive strategies such as cognitive reappraisal and two forms of repetitive negative thinking (RNT)—worry and rumination. Furthermore, prior research has exclusively relied on self-report measures to assess mental health as the primary outcome and more research is needed to understand the psychophysiological correlates of emotion regulation. To address these limitations, we tested the interaction between cognitive reappraisal and RNT when predicting resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia, which measures heart rate variability across the respiratory cycle and is conceptualized as a transdiagnostic biomarker for psychopathology and emotion regulation capacities. We also predicted depression symptoms as a secondary outcome in an attempt to replicate prior research. In a sample of 233 undergraduates, we found that RNT had a negative association with resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia, but only among participants who reported low levels of cognitive reappraisal use. The effect of RNT on depressive symptoms was not moderated by cognitive reappraisal use. Overall, these results suggest that worry and rumination might have the most detrimental links with physiological functioning when people do not frequently use cognitive reappraisal to regulate affect. This study also underscores the necessity of utilizing psychophysiological measures when modeling interactions between regulatory strategies.
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Percentages exceed 100% because participants were allowed to identify with more than one ethnicity, if applicable.
A similar pattern of results was observed when worry and rumination were entered as individual predictors of resting RSA in separate regression models. Therefore, similar interactive effects were observed when worry and rumination were tested separately or as a composite measure of RNT.
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Andre J. Plate, Emily J. Dunn, Kara Christensen and Amelia Aldao declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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Plate, A.J., Dunn, E.J., Christensen, K. et al. When are Worry and Rumination Negatively Associated with Resting Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia? It Depends: The Moderating Role of Cognitive Reappraisal. Cogn Ther Res 44, 874–884 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-020-10099-z
- Resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia
- Repetitive negative thinking
- Cognitive reappraisal