Positive Urgency and Emotional Reactivity: Evidence for Altered Responding to Positive Stimuli

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Abstract

Positive urgency, defined as a tendency to become impulsive during positive affective states, has gained support as a form of impulsivity that is particularly important for understanding psychopathology. Despite this, little is known about the emotional mechanisms and correlates of this form of impulsivity. We hypothesized that positive urgency would be related to greater emotional reactivity in response to a positive film clip. Seventy-five undergraduates watched a positive film clip, and a multimodal assessment of emotion was conducted, including subjective emotional experience, physiological activation (i.e., heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, skin conductance), and facial emotional behavior (i.e., objectively coded using the Facial Action Coding System). Positive urgency was not significantly related to greater positive emotional reactivity but rather a more complex array of emotions expressed in facial behavior, as indexed by similar levels of positive yet greater levels of negative behavior. These findings show that positive urgency may be linked to altered emotionality, but does not appear related to heightened positive emotional reactivity. Potential implications for functional outcomes are discussed.

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