Hedonic Orientation Moderates the Association Between Cognitive Control and Affect Reactivity to Daily Hassles in Adolescent Boys

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People often seek to regulate their affective reactions when confronted with hassles. Hassle reactivity is lower for people with higher cognitive control, presumably because of better affect regulation. Many adolescents, however, show higher hassle reactivity than children, despite better cognitive control. The present study aims to understand whether motivational differences when seeking to regulate affective experiences moderate the association between cognitive control and hassle reactivity in adolescence. We hypothesized that higher cognitive control is related to lower hassle reactivity only for adolescents with a strong hedonic orientation, that is, for adolescents who seek to maintain or enhance positive or to dampen negative affect. We investigated 149 boys’ (age range: 10–20 years) hedonic orientation and affect reactivity toward daily hassles during 2 weeks of experience sampling. Higher cognitive control, assessed with a working memory battery in the laboratory, was associated with stronger hassle reactivity in individuals with low hedonic orientation. The more hedonic-oriented individuals were, the lower was their hassle reactivity, but only in combination with high cognitive control. Our findings illustrate that higher cognitive control is not always related to lower hassle reactivity. Rather, when daily hassles compromise affect balance, hedonic orientation is equally important to understand affect reactivity in adolescent boys.

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