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Emotion. 2015 Oct;15(5):615-24. doi: 10.1037/emo0000067. Epub 2015 Apr 6.

Emotional clarity as a function of neuroticism and major depressive disorder.

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Department of Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis.
Department of Psychology, KU Leuven - University of Leuven.
Department of Psychology, Stanford University.
School of Education, University of California, Irvine.
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.


Investigators have begun to document links between emotional clarity and forms of negative emotionality, including neuroticism and major depressive disorder (MDD). Researchers to date have relied almost exclusively on global self-reports of emotional clarity; moreover, no studies have examined emotional clarity as a function of valence, although this may prove to be crucial in understanding the relation of emotional clarity to maladjustment. In 2 studies, we used experience-sampling methodology and multilevel modeling to examine the associations between emotional clarity and 2 constructs that have been linked theoretically with emotional clarity: neuroticism and depression. In Study 1 we assessed 95 college students who completed a self-report measure of neuroticism. In Study 2 we examined 53 adults diagnosed with MDD and 53 healthy adults. Reaction times to negative and positive emotion ratings during the experience-sampling protocols were used as an indirect measure of emotional clarity. Neuroticism was related to lower clarity of negative, but not of positive, emotion. Similarly, compared with the healthy controls, individuals with MDD had lower clarity of negative, but not of positive, emotion. It is important to note, findings from both studies held after controlling for baseline RTs and current levels of negative and positive emotion. These findings highlight the importance of assessing valence when examining emotional clarity and increase our understanding of the nature of the emotional disturbances that characterize neuroticism and MDD.

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