Imprecision Inhibits Implementation: Low Emotion Differentiation is Associated with Ineffective Emotion Regulation in Daily Life

Kalokerinos, E. K. (The University of Newcastle), Erbas, Y. (KU Leuven), Ceulemans, E. (KU Leuven), Kuppens, P. (KU Leuven)

Emotion differentiation, or emotional granularity, is the ability to experience and label emotions precisely, and has been linked with psychological well-being. It has been theorized that differentiating between emotions provides information that facilitates effective emotion regulation: when you can pinpoint how you feel, you can tailor your regulation more successfully. However, this link has yet to be comprehensively tested. In two experience-sampling studies, we tested this link. Study 1 was a three-wave longitudinal study, examining this process as it naturally unfolds in daily life (N = 200 participants, 34,660 measurements). Study 2 followed an emotional event: first-year students receiving their first-semester exam results (N = 101 participants, 6,282 measurements). We examined how differentiation relates to 1) emotion regulation strategy selection, and 2) the effectiveness of strategies in down-regulating negative emotion. We found few relationships between differentiation and the selection of putatively adaptive or maladaptive strategies. Instead, we found interactions between differentiation and strategies in predicting emotion: among low differentiators, both adaptive and maladaptive regulation strategies were more strongly associated with increased negative emotion. These findings suggests that low differentiation may hinder emotion regulation, supporting theory that effective regulation underlies the benefits of differentiation.


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Feeling Social Symposium