Concurrent and Prospective Relations Between Attention to Emotion and Affect Intensity: An Experience Sampling Study

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Theorists contend that emotional awareness is vital to being able to use emotional information adaptively. The extent to which individuals attend to and value their feelings, or attention to emotion, is a facet of emotional awareness. Little research, however, has examined whether attention to emotion affects the magnitude or intensity of emotional experiences. In the present study we examined the relations between attention to emotion and levels of affect in 53 healthy adults. Participants carried hand-held electronic devices for approximately 7 days and were randomly prompted eight times per day to answer a series of questions. At each prompt, participants reported attention to emotion, current negative affect (NA), and positive affect (PA). All findings presented were computed using multilevel modeling. Replicating findings obtained using trait-level measures, we found that attention to emotion was associated concurrently with higher levels of both NA and PA. We also found prospectively that attention to emotion at one prompt predicted a decrease in levels of NA, but no change in levels of PA, at the subsequent prompt. These findings suggest that emotional processes serve different functions over time and highlight the role of attention to emotion in affect regulation.

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