Emerging research suggests that trait neuroticism is associated with enhanced attention to and perception of negative emotional stimuli, increasing the risk for multiple forms of psychopathology including depression and anxiety. However, modifiable factors such as certain forms of emotion regulation have the potential to weaken this association. In a large sample (N = 1252), we investigated the link between neuroticism and valence bias in response to stimuli that have the potential for both positive and negative interpretations and examined the moderating role of interpersonal emotion regulation. Primary tests of hypotheses demonstrated that increased neuroticism was associated with a more negative valence bias in response to ambiguity, but only for individuals who are less likely to rely on interpersonal resources to regulate negative affect. Supplemental analyses suggest that this moderation effect of interpersonal emotion regulation might depend on the nature of the stimuli, and that regulation of positive emotions—not just negative affect—can also contribute to a less negative valence bias. Taken together, results suggest that individuals who are high in neuroticism, but consistently rely on interpersonal relationships to regulate their emotions, are better able to override the bias toward negativity that can occur when appraising ambiguity.
- Interpersonal emotion regulation
- Valence bias
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