A dimensional assessment of an implicit measure of emotion regulation
Emmert-Aronson, Benjamin Owen
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Emotion regulation has taken on a growing role in the study of psychopathology, both in research as a process, and as a part of a treatment. The interest in emotion regulation has led to an increase in the assessment of this construct, primarily with explicit measures of emotion regulation. However, explicit measures are limited in that they are retrospective, subject to response biases, and impacted by method effects. Further, explicit measures only assess single strategies of emotion regulation at a time. Implicit measures of emotion regulation are not subject to these limitations. One implicit measure of emotion regulation is Etkin’s Emotional Conflict Task, which conceptually follows the Stroop task. The current study utilized the Emotional Conflict Task, but examined psychopathology dimensionally instead of categorically. This allowed for more precise assessment of psychopathology and increased statistical power, without the loss of information inherent to categorical assessment. Until now, the Emotional Conflict Task has only been examined in a few clinical samples, and only with very small sample sizes. This study examined convergent and divergent validity of the Emotional Conflict Task as well as incremental validity over current measures of emotion regulation. Sixty outpatients with anxiety and mood disorders completed the Emotional Conflict Task and a standard battery of questionnaires, along with a semi-structured diagnostic assessment, as part of their intake assessment when presenting for assessment and treatment at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. Convergent validity of the Emotional Conflict Task was assessed by correlating it with two explicit measures of emotion regulation. Next, hierarchical regression was used to examine incremental validity of the Emotional Conflict Task, specifically the amount of variability in functional impairment accounted for, as measured by the Work and Social Adjustment Scale. Finally, this measure was correlated with dimensional measures of psychopathology and temperament to assess the differential relations between these constructs. Results indicated that the Emotional Conflict Task did not correlate with explicit measures of emotion regulation, was not predictive of functional impairment, and was not correlated with dimensional measures of psychopathology or temperament. Potential causes for these null findings and future directions are discussed.