The present studies examined how observers infer moral attributes and beliefs from nonverbal pride displays. Pride is a self-focused positive emotion triggered by appraisals of the self's success, status, and competence. We hypothesized that when a target emits nonverbal cues of pride, he or she will be viewed by observers as higher in self-interest and therefore more likely to endorse ideologies that would benefit the self-specifically, merit-based resource distributions (meritocracy) as opposed to equality-based resource distributions (egalitarianism). Across studies, experimentally manipulated pride displays (Studies 1 and 3) and naturally occurring expressions of pride (Study 4) led observers to infer heightened support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism. Analyses also revealed that people intuitively associate higher self-interest with enhanced support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism (Study 2), and this association mediates the pathway from pride displays to inferences of heightened support for meritocracy and reduced support for egalitarianism (Studies 3 and 4). Across studies, we compare pride to expressions of joy or no emotion and demonstrate these effects using thin slices as well as static images.
Virtually all developmental neuropsychiatric disorders involve some dysfunction or dysregulation of emotion. Moreover, many psychiatric disorders with adult onset have early subclinical manifestations in children. This essay selectively reviews the literature on the neuroimaging of affect and disorders of affect in children. Some critical definitional and conceptual issues are first addressed, including the distinctions between the perception and production of emotion and between emotional states and traits. Developmental changes in morphometric measures of brain structure are then discussed and the implications of such findings for studies of functional brain activity are considered. Data on functional neuroimaging and childhood depression are then reviewed. While the extant data in this area are meager, they are consistent with studies in adults that have observed decreased left-sided anterolateral prefrontal cortex activation in depression. Studies in children on the recognition of emotion and affective intent in faces using functional magnetic resonance imaging are then reviewed. These findings indicate that the amygdala plays an important role in such affective face processing in children, similar to the patterns of activation observed in adults. Moreover, one study has reported abnormalities in amygdala activation during a task requiring the judgment of affective intent from the eye region of the face in subjects with autism. Some of the methodological complexities of developmental research in this area are discussed, and directions for future research are suggested.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) is a manualized group psychotherapy for children ages 9–13 years old, which was developed specifically to increase social-emotional resiliency through the enhancement of mindful attention. Program development is described along with results of the initial randomized controlled trial. We tested the hypotheses that children randomized to participate in MBCT-C would show greater reductions in (a) attention problems, (b) anxiety symptoms, and (c) behavior problems than wait-listed age and gender-matched controls. Participants were boys and girls aged 9–13 (N = 25), mostly from low-income, inner-city households. Twenty-one of 25 children were ethnic minorities. A randomized cross-lagged design provided a wait-listed control group, a second trial of MBCT-C, and a 3-month follow-up of children who completed the first trial. Measures included the Child Behavior Checklist, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, and Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children. Participants who completed the program showed fewer attention problems than wait-listed controls and those improvements were maintained at three months following the intervention [F (1, 1, 18) = 5.965, p = .025, Cohen’s d = .42]. A strong relationship was found between attention problems and behavior problems (r = .678, p < .01). Reductions in attention problems accounted for 46% of the variance of changes in behavior problems, although attention changes proved to be a non-significant mediator of behavior problems (p = .053). Significant reductions in anxiety symptoms and behavior problems were found for those children who reported clinically elevated levels of anxiety at pretest (n = 6). Results show that MBCT-C is a promising intervention for attention and behavior problems, and may reduce childhood anxiety symptoms.
This experiment was designed to assess the differential impact of initially presenting affective information to the left versus right hemisphere on both the perception of and response to the input. Nineteen right-handed subjects were presented with faces expressing happiness and sadness. Each face was presented twice to each visual field for an 8-sec duration. The electro-oculogram (EOG) was monitored and fed back to subjects to train them to keep their eyes focused on the central fixation point as well as to eliminate trials confounded by eye movement artifact. Following each slide presentation, subjects rated the intensity of the emotional expression depicted in the face and their emotional reaction to the face on a series of 7-point rating scales. Subjects reported perceiving more happiness in response to stimuli initially presented to the left hemisphere (right visual field) compared to presentations of the identical faces to the right hemisphere (left visual field). This effect was predominantly a function of ratings on sad faces. A similar, albeit less robust, effect was found on self-ratings of happiness (the degree to which the face elicited the emotion in the viewer). These data challenge the view that the right hemisphere is uniquely involved in all emotional behavior. The implications of these findings for theories concerning the lateralization of emotional behavior are discussed.
Anhedonia, the loss of pleasure or interest in previously rewarding stimuli, is a core feature of major depression. While theorists have argued that anhedonia reflects a reduced capacity to experience pleasure, evidence is mixed as to whether anhedonia is caused by a reduction in hedonic capacity. An alternative explanation is that anhedonia is due to the inability to sustain positive affect across time. Using positive images, we used an emotion regulation task to test whether individuals with depression are unable to sustain activation in neural circuits underlying positive affect and reward. While up-regulating positive affect, depressed individuals failed to sustain nucleus accumbens activity over time compared with controls. This decreased capacity was related to individual differences in self-reported positive affect. Connectivity analyses further implicated the fronto-striatal network in anhedonia. These findings support the hypothesis that anhedonia in depressed patients reflects the inability to sustain engagement of structures involved in positive affect and reward.
BACKGROUND: Anhedonia, a reduced ability to experience pleasure, is a chief symptom of major depressive disorder and is related to reduced frontostriatal connectivity when attempting to upregulate positive emotion. The present study examined another facet of positive emotion regulation associated with anhedonia-namely, the downregulation of positive affect-and its relation to prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity. METHODS: Neuroimaging data were collected from 27 individuals meeting criteria for major depressive disorder as they attempted to suppress positive emotion during a positive emotion regulation task. Their PFC activation pattern was compared with the PFC activation pattern exhibited by 19 healthy control subjects during the same task. Anhedonia scores were collected at three time points: at baseline (time 1), 8 weeks after time 1 (i.e., time 2), and 6 months after time 1 (i.e., time 3). Prefrontal cortex activity at time 1 was used to predict change in anhedonia over time. Analyses were conducted utilizing hierarchical linear modeling software. RESULTS: Depressed individuals who could not inhibit positive emotion-evinced by reduced right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activity during attempts to dampen their experience of positive emotion in response to positive visual stimuli-exhibited a steeper anhedonia reduction slope between baseline and 8 weeks of treatment with antidepressant medication (p < .05). Control subjects showed a similar trend between baseline and time 3. CONCLUSIONS: To reduce anhedonia, it may be necessary to teach individuals how to counteract the functioning of an overactive pleasure-dampening prefrontal inhibitory system.
Significant progress has been made in our understanding of the neural substrates of emotion and its disorders. Neuroimaging methods have been used to characterize the circuitry underlying disorders of emotion. Particular emphasis has been placed on the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, parietal cortex, and the amygdala as critical components of the circuitry that may be dysfunctional in both depression and anxiety.
Depression has been associated with dysfunctional executive functions and abnormal activity within the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region critically involved in action regulation. Prior research invites the possibility that executive deficits in depression may arise from abnormal responses to negative feedback or errors, but the underlying neural substrates remain unknown. We hypothesized that abnormal reactions to error would be associated with dysfunctional rostral ACC activity, a region previously implicated in error detection and evaluation of the emotional significance of events. To test this hypothesis, subjects with low and high Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scores performed an Eriksen Flanker task. To assess whether tonic activity within the rostral ACC predicted post-error adjustments, 128-channel resting EEG data were collected before the task and analyzed with low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) using a region-of-interest approach. High BDI subjects were uniquely characterized by significantly lower accuracy after incorrect than correct trials. Mirroring the behavioral findings, high BDI subjects had significantly reduced pretask gamma (36.5-44 Hz) current density within the affective (rostral; BA24, BA25, BA32) but not cognitive (dorsal; BA24', BA32') ACC subdivision. For low, but not high, BDI subjects pretask gamma within the affective ACC subdivision predicted post-error adjustments even after controlling for activity within the cognitive ACC subdivision. Abnormal responses to errors may thus arise due to lower activity within regions subserving affective and/or motivational responses to salient cues. Because rostral ACC regions have been implicated in treatment response in depression, our findings provide initial insight into putative mechanisms fostering treatment response.
This article assessed whether resting electroencephalographic (EEG) asymmetry in anterior regions of the brain can predict affective responses to emotion elicitors. Baseline EEG was recorded from 32 female adults, after which Ss viewed film clips preselected to elicit positive or negative affect. Resting alpha power asymmetry in the frontal region significantly predicted self-reported global negative affect in response to clips and predicted the difference between global positive and negative affect. Analyses of discrete emotions revealed a strong relation between frontal asymmetry and fear responses to films. Effects were independent of Ss mood ratings at the time at which baseline EEG was measured. Resting anterior asymmetry may be a state-independent index of the individual's predisposition to respond affectively.
Resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSAREST) indexes important aspects of individual differences in emotionality. In the present investigation, the authors address whether RSAREST is associated with tonic positive or negative emotionality, and whether RSAREST relates to phasic emotional responding to discrete positive emotion-eliciting stimuli. Across an 8-month, multiassessment study of first-year university students (n = 80), individual differences in RSAREST were associated with positive but not negative tonic emotionality, assessed at the level of personality traits, long-term moods, the disposition toward optimism, and baseline reports of current emotional states. RSAREST was not related to increased positive emotion, or stimulus-specific emotion, in response to compassion-, awe-, or pride-inducing stimuli. These findings suggest that resting RSA indexes aspects of a person's tonic positive emotionality.
Right-handed subjects tend to look to the left when answering affective questions. The relative shift in gaze from right to left is accentuated when the questions also involve spatial manipulation and attenuated when the questions require verbal manipulation. The data support the hypothesis that the right hemisphere has a special role in emotion in the intact brain, and that predictable patterning of hemispheric activity can occur when specific combinations of cognitive and affective processes interact.
Functional neuroimaging investigations in the fields of social neuroscience and neuroeconomics indicate that the anterior insular cortex (AI) is consistently involved in empathy, compassion, and interpersonal phenomena such as fairness and cooperation. These findings suggest that AI plays an important role in social emotions, hereby defined as affective states that arise when we interact with other people and that depend on the social context. After we link the role of AI in social emotions to interoceptive awareness and the representation of current global emotional states, we will present a model suggesting that AI is not only involved in representing current states, but also in predicting emotional states relevant to the self and others. This model also proposes that AI enables us to learn about emotional states as well as about the uncertainty attached to events, and implies that AI plays a dominant role in decision making in complex and uncertain environments. Our review further highlights that dorsal and ventro-central, as well as anterior and posterior subdivisions of AI potentially subserve different functions and guide different aspects of behavioral regulation. We conclude with a section summarizing different routes to understanding other people’s actions, feelings and thoughts, emphasizing the notion that the predominant role of AI involves understanding others’ feeling and bodily states rather than their action intentions or abstract beliefs.
Emotions seem to play a critical role in moral judgment. However, the way in which emotions exert their influence on moral judgments is still poorly understood. This study proposes a novel theoretical approach suggesting that emotions influence moral judgments based on their motivational dimension. We tested the effects of two types of induced emotions with equal valence but with different motivational implications (anger and disgust), and four types of moral scenarios (disgust-related, impersonal, personal, and beliefs) on moral judgments. We hypothesized and found that approach motivation associated with anger would make moral judgments more permissible, while disgust, associated with withdrawal motivation, would make them less permissible. Moreover, these effects varied as a function of the type of scenario: the induced emotions only affected moral judgments concerning impersonal and personal scenarios, while we observed no effects for the other scenarios. These findings suggest that emotions can play an important role in moral judgment, but that their specific effects depend upon the type of emotion induced. Furthermore, induced emotion effects were more prevalent for moral decisions in personal and impersonal scenarios, possibly because these require the performance of an action rather than making an abstract judgment. We conclude that the effects of induced emotions on moral judgments can be predicted by taking their motivational dimension into account. This finding has important implications for moral psychology, as it points toward a previously overlooked mechanism linking emotions to moral judgments.
Drawing on recent claims in the study of relationships, attachment, and emotion, the authors hypothesized that romantic love serves a commitment-related function and sexual desire a reproduction-related function. Consistent with these claims, in Study 1, brief experiences of romantic love and sexual desire observed in a 3-min interaction between romantic partners were related to distinct feeling states, distinct nonverbal displays, and commitment- and reproductive-related relationship outcomes, respectively. In Study 2, the nonverbal display of romantic love was related to the release of oxytocin. Discussion focuses on the place of romantic love and sexual desire in the literature on emotion.
This study, based on a sample of 172 children, examined the relation between average afternoon salivary cortisol levels measured at home at age 4.5 years and socioemotional adjustment a year and a half later, as reported by mothers, fathers, and teachers. Cortisol levels were hypothesized to be positively associated with withdrawal-type behaviors (e.g., internalizing, social wariness) and inversely related to approach-type behaviors, both negative and positive (e.g., externalizing, school engagement). Higher cortisol levels at age 4.5 predicted more internalizing behavior and social wariness as reported by teachers and mothers, although child gender moderated the relation between cortisol and mother report measures. An inverse relation was found between boys' cortisol levels and father report of externalizing behavior. A marginal inverse relation was found between child cortisol levels and teacher report of school engagement. Behavior assessed concurrently with cortisol collection did not account for the prospective relations observed,suggesting that cortisol adds uniquely to an understanding of behavioral development.
Schools are searching for innovative ways to meet the unique academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs of adolescents, many of whom face serious personal and family challenges. An innovative practice that is currently being introduced into school settings is meditation. Types of meditation offered in school-based settings include mindfulness meditation, the relaxation response, and Transcendental Meditation. These practices, as cognitive-behavioral interventions that are available for use by social workers and other school professionals, help students to enhance academic and psychosocial strengths and improve self-regulation capacities and coping abilities. This article defines meditation and meditative practices, reviews the literature showing the benefits and challenges of offering meditation to adolescents in a school-based setting, and describes the relevance of these practices for adolescents. The article also discusses implications for school social workers, teachers, and school administrators and reflects on the current research and future efforts toward building the research base for the promising practice of meditation in schools.
The current study investigated the effects of an 8-week mindfulness-based meditation training (MMT) intervention on attentional bias, engagement and disengagement of pain-related threat in fibromyalgia patients as compared to an age-matched control group. A well validated dot-probe task was used to explore early versus later stages of attentional processing through the use of two stimulus exposure durations (100, 500 ms) of pain-related threat words. The enduring effects of MMT were assessed 6-months after completion of MMT. Preliminary results suggest that MMT reduces avoidance of pain-related threat at early levels of processing, and facilitates disengagement from threat at later stages of processing. Furthermore, it appears that effects of MMT on early attentional threat processing do not remain stable after long-term follow-up.
Selective attention has been shown to bias sensory processing in favor of relevant stimuli and against irrelevant or distracting stimuli in perceptual tasks. Increasing evidence suggests that selective attention plays an important role during working memory maintenance, possibly by biasing sensory processing in favor of to-be-remembered items. In the current study, we investigated whether selective attention may also support working memory by biasing processing against irrelevant and potentially distracting information. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while subjects (n = 22) performed a delayed-recognition task for faces and shoes. The delay period was filled with face or shoe distractors. Behavioral performance was impaired when distractors were congruent with the working memory domain (e.g., face distractor during working memory for faces) relative to when distractors were incongruent with the working memory domain (e.g., face distractor during shoe working memory). If attentional biasing against distractor processing is indeed functionally relevant in supporting working memory maintenance, perceptual processing of distractors is predicted to be attenuated when distractors are more behaviorally intrusive relative to when they are nonintrusive. As such, we predicted that perceptual processing of distracting faces, as measured by the face-sensitive N170 ERP component, would be reduced in the context of congruent (face) working memory relative to incongruent (shoe) working memory. The N170 elicited by distracting faces demonstrated reduced amplitude during congruent versus incongruent working memory. These results suggest that perceptual processing of distracting faces may be attenuated due to attentional biasing against sensory processing of distractors that are most behaviorally intrusive during working memory maintenance.
Five studies investigated the cognitive and emotional processes by which self-compassionate people deal with unpleasant life events. In the various studies, participants reported on negative events in their daily lives, responded to hypothetical scenarios, reacted to interpersonal feedback, rated their or others' videotaped performances in an awkward situation, and reflected on negative personal experiences. Results from Study 1 showed that self-compassion predicted emotional and cognitive reactions to negative events in everyday life, and Study 2 found that self-compassion buffered people against negative self-feelings when imagining distressing social events. In Study 3, self-compassion moderated negative emotions after receiving ambivalent feedback, particularly for participants who were low in self-esteem. Study 4 found that low-self-compassionate people undervalued their videotaped performances relative to observers. Study 5 experimentally induced a self-compassionate perspective and found that self-compassion leads people to acknowledge their role in negative events without feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions. In general, these studies suggest that self-compassion attenuates people's reactions to negative events in ways that are distinct from and, in some cases, more beneficial than self-esteem.
Recent research suggests that lower-class individuals favor explanations of personal and political outcomes that are oriented to features of the external environment. We extended this work by testing the hypothesis that, as a result, individuals of a lower social class are more empathically accurate in judging the emotions of other people. In three studies, lower-class individuals (compared with upper-class individuals) received higher scores on a test of empathic accuracy (Study 1), judged the emotions of an interaction partner more accurately (Study 2), and made more accurate inferences about emotion from static images of muscle movements in the eyes (Study 3). Moreover, the association between social class and empathic accuracy was explained by the tendency for lower-class individuals to explain social events in terms of features of the external environment. The implications of class-based patterns in empathic accuracy for well-being and relationship outcomes are discussed.