Emotion and Wellness Study

Emotion and Wellness Study (AFCHRON)

A man with 2 faces (happy and angry) with one image using multiple exposure techniqueHow a person typically responds to emotional challenges, or their emotional response style, may be more or less healthy depending on how strongly they react and how long their emotional responses linger. Moreover, the patterns are likely very different for negative and positive emotions.  We are trying to understand how people’s negative and positive emotional response styles are related to their life experiences, cognitive abilities, ability to cope with stress, later memory for stressful and emotional events, and health and well-being. Identifying these relationships may help inform new treatments and interventions to improve well-being especially when dealing with adversity. For some people, better coping with negative events to shorten the negative emotional response might be the most appropriate target, whereas for others developing skills to better savor positive experiences to enhance and prolong positive emotional responses might improve resilience and be more impactful for health and well-being.

Study Details

A concept image of a woman appearing to be happy on the outside but her anger and sadness shows through as blurred images of her expressing those emotions show on either side.This study uses affective chronometry – how people experience emotions over a period of time – to investigate three fundamental questions: (1) how quickly or slowly a person recovers from adversity; (2) the extent to which a person savors positive emotion; and (3) how a person’s emotional responses increase or decrease in intensity when they are exposed to positive or negative stimuli multiple times.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the midst of this multiyear study, we have assessed individuals’ experience and impacts of the pandemic and the social context during this stressful time. This has allowed the study to expand its research questions to include how differences in emotional responses are associated with the ability to cope with the long term high stress and personal impacts of the pandemic, racial injustice, and sociopolitical tension of the time.

A primary goal of this study is to measure the time course of emotional responses on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis in people using both electromyography (EMG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A second goal of the study is to determine whether differences in response styles (i.e., negative and/or positive) are related to memory, cognition, coping with and history of stress, mental health, daily emotional experiences, response to reward, and biological markers of stress and immune health.

This investigation of individual differences in affective chronometry has the potential to explain why certain individuals are vulnerable to mood disorders and why others are resilient, as well as identify the most critical processes to target with interventions.

People Working on This Study

Stacey M. Schaefer, Study Leader and PI

Lauren Gresham, Study Program Manager

Elizabeth Nord, Research Specialist

Richard J. Davidson, co-PI, and Melissa Rosenkranz, co-I

Many additional collaborators have contributed to and are testing questions in this broad dataset.