When negative interpretations persist, positive emotions don't! Inflexible negative interpretations encourage depression and social anxiety by dampening positive emotions

Behav Res Ther. 2020 Jan;124:103510. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2019.103510. Epub 2019 Nov 4.


Research on emotion regulation difficulties has been instrumental in understanding hallmark features of depression and social anxiety. Yet, the cognitive mechanisms that give rise to maladaptive patterns of emotion regulation strategy use remain underspecified. This investigation examined the association of negative interpretation inflexibility and interpretation biases with the use of common emotion regulation strategies in response to negative and positive emotional experiences (repetitive negative thinking, positive reappraisal, and dampening). Study 1 (N = 250) found that inflexibility in revising negative interpretations in response to disconfirmatory positive information was related to the dampening of positive emotions, but not to repetitive negative thinking or positive reappraisal. Importantly, dampening mediated the relation between inflexible negative interpretations and symptoms of both depression and social anxiety. This mediation model was further supported by the data from Study 2 (N = 294). Across both studies, negative interpretation bias was related to repetitive negative thinking and dampening, whereas positive interpretation bias was related to positive reappraisal. Collectively, these results suggest that both interpretation inflexibility and interpretation biases may contribute to difficulties in emotion regulation related to depression and social anxiety.

Keywords: Bias against disconfirmatory evidence (BADE); Depression; Emotion regulation; Interpretation bias; Interpretation inflexibility; Social anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Pessimism / psychology*
  • Young Adult