Poster D17, Monday, March 26, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Eye movements predict immediate and long-term effects of emotion regulation: An eye-tracking investigation
Margaret O'Brien1, Yuta Katsumi1, Alexandru Iordan2, JulieAnn Scherer1, Alejandro Lleras1, Simona Buetti1, Sanda Dolcos1, Florin Dolcos1; 1University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Emotional stimuli tend to capture attention, and hence are typically remembered better than neutral ones. However, there may also be a downside to this mnemonic advantage, as excessive rumination on negative information may lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here, we investigated the immediate and long-term impact of focused attention (FA) as an emotion regulation strategy, using an eye-tracking procedure in healthy young adults. We particularly focused on patterns of visual attention predicting immediate emotional experience and long-term emotional memory for pictures. Following instructions to focus on either emotional (Emotion Focus) or non-emotional (Context Focus) aspects of negative images, participants (N=37) rated their emotional response to each picture, using a 5-point scale (1=not negative at all, 5=very negative). Then, one week later, participants’ memory for the images was assessed in a surprise recognition memory task (N=19). Regression analyses showed that FA was successful in reducing both the immediate and long-term impact of negative emotion. Regarding the immediate impact, longer time spent focusing on contextual aspects of negative images predicted lower emotional ratings for those images. Regarding the long-term impact, longer gaze-time on contextual aspects of negative images also predicted decreased memory for those images. Overall, these findings show that FA is an effective emotion regulation strategy in reducing both the immediate and the long-term effects of negative stimuli. This new evidence has important implications for counteracting negative affective biases linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions