Theses Doctoral

Expressive Flexibility and Affective Flexibility: Relation to Each Other and the Effects of Practice and Feedback Instruction

Zhu, Zhuoying

Theory and research on emotion regulation have shifted from an emphasis on adaptiveness of specific regulatory strategies to regulatory flexibility according situational demands. Using the process model of flexible regulation (Bonanno & Burton, 2013), this dissertation reports two studies designed to investigate questions related to regulatory repertoire and responsiveness to feedback (two central components underpinning regulatory flexibility), respectively. In Study 1, participants undertook the Expressive Flexibility Task (EF Task), in which they were instructed to up- and down-regulate their emotional facial expressions, and the Affective Flexibility Task (AF Task), in which they were instructed to up- and down-regulate their subjective feelings. The results showed that the ability to enhance emotional expression, as rated by untrained observers, and the ability to enhance subjective feeling, as measured by facial electromyography (EMG), were moderately correlated, so were the abilities to suppress emotional expression and subjective feeling, suggesting regulation in distinct response systems are separable but also reflect a broader, unified capacity. In Study 2, extra trials (2nd phase) were added to examine the effect of practice and feedback instruction on expressive and affective regulatory abilities. Half of the participants were given predetermined negative feedback about their performance of the EF and AF Tasks and asked to try harder in the 2nd phase of the tasks (feedback group), and the other half were instructed to wait before proceeding to the 2nd task phases (control group). The two groups demonstrated comparable improvement in the ability to further enhance subjective feeling in the 2nd phase of the tasks, as measured by facial EMG. The feedback group also reported more or less emotion in accordance to the regulatory instructions in the 2nd task phases. Furthermore, both the abilities to further enhance and suppress subjective feeling as measured by facial EMG were negatively correlated with depressive symptoms and general distress, regardless of group status. The findings were discussed within the regulatory flexibility framework. Methodological limitations of the study and direction for future research were also discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Bonanno, George A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 6, 2016