The Role of Distress Disclosure Tendencies in the Experience and Expression of Laboratory-Induced Sadness

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The benefits of talking with others about unpleasant emotions have been thoroughly investigated, but individual differences in distress disclosure tendencies have not been adequately integrated within theoretical models of emotion. The purpose of this laboratory research was to determine whether distress disclosure tendencies stem from differences in emotional reactivity or differences in emotion regulation. After completing measures of distress disclosure tendencies, social desirability, and positive and negative affect, 84 participants (74% women) were video recorded while viewing a sadness-inducing film clip. Participants completed post-film measures of affect and were then interviewed about their reactions to the film; these interviews were audio recorded for later coding and computerized text analysis. Distress disclosure tendencies were not predictive of the subjective experience of emotion, but they were positively related to facial expressions of sadness and happiness. Distress disclosure tendencies also predicted judges’ ratings of the verbal disclosure of emotion during the interview, but self-reported disclosure and use of positive and negative emotion words were not associated with distress disclosure tendencies. The authors present implications of this research for integrating individual differences in distress disclosure with models of emotion.


This article was originally published as Kahn, J. H., Cox, D. W., Bakker, A. M., O’Loughlin, J. I., Kotlarczyk, A. M. (2017). The role of distress disclosure tendencies in the experience and expression of laboratory-induced sadness. Journal of Individual Differences, 38, 55–62.