The relationship between self-distancing and the duration of negative and positive emotional experiences in daily life

Emotion. 2012 Dec;12(6):1248-63. doi: 10.1037/a0028289. Epub 2012 May 28.


Extant research suggests that self-distancing facilitates adaptive self-reflection of negative emotional experiences. However, this work operationalizes adaptive self-reflection in terms of a reduction in the intensity of negative emotion, ignoring other important aspects of emotional experience such as emotion duration. Moreover, prior research has predominantly focused on how self-distancing influences emotional reactivity in response to reflecting on negative experiences, leaving open questions concerning how this process operates in the context of positive experiences. We addressed these issues by examining the relationship between self-distancing and the duration of daily negative and positive emotions using a daily diary methodology. Discrete-time survival analyses revealed that reflecting on both daily negative (Studies 1 and 2) and positive events (Study 2) from a self-distanced perspective was associated with shorter emotions compared with reflecting on such events from a self-immersed perspective. The basic science and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anger / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult