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Emotion. 2010 Aug;10(4):467-74. doi: 10.1037/a0018699.

Physiological down-regulation and positive emotion in marital interaction.

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Department of Psychology, University ofCalifornia, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Previous studies have demonstrated that 1 function of positive emotion is the undoing of physiological arousal produced by negative emotions. These studies have used single-subject paradigms, in which emotions were induced by films in college-age individuals. In the present study, we examined the relationship between physiological down-regulation and positive emotion in a sample of 149 middle-aged and older married couples engaged in a 15-min discussion of an area of marital conflict. During the conversation, autonomic and somatic physiological activity was measured, and emotional behaviors were recorded and subsequently coded. We found that during 20-s periods of down-regulation (where physiology transitioned from high arousal to low arousal), couples showed an increase in positive emotional behavior compared with periods without down-regulation. The finding was quite robust, suggesting that the undoing effect of positive emotion generalizes across age, sex, and marital satisfaction. The advantages of using positive emotion as an emotion regulation strategy are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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