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Emotional Expressivity, Emotion Regulation, and Mood in College Students: A Cross-Ethnic Study

Article excerpt

Emotions help us respond adaptively to environmental challenges and opportunities (Frijda, 1988). Emotional expressivity, emotion regulation, and mood, which are three important domains of an individual's emotion system and the core aspects of personality, may affect an individual's social adaptation and mental health.

Emotional expressivity refers to the behavioral (e.g., facial, postural) changes that typically accompany emotion, such as smiling, frowning, crying, or storming out of the room (Gross & John, 1995). Gross and John found that three facets namely, positive expressivity, negative expressivity, and impulse strength (conceptualized as the strength of the emotional impulses) consistently emerge in both self-reports and peer ratings of expressivity. "Unmistakable individual differences in expressivity suggest that people differ in the emotional tendencies they have. These differences are important to understand because they influence a wide range of intra- and interpersonal processes" (Gross & John, 1995, p. 555). Researchers have confirmed that individuals with more emotional expressivity are usually happier and feel less anxious and guilty. Frequently expressing anger, however, will consume an individual's subjective well-being, social relationships, and physical health (Kring, Smith, & Neale, 1994). It has also been confirmed in previous studies that men are less emotionally expressive than women. Women have been found to express emotions such as shame, fear, and sadness more often than men, and to report higher levels of sadness and depression (Kring et al., 1994).

Emotion regulation refers to individuals using a wide range of strategies to exert considerable control over, and to influence, their emotions, and determine when they have them (Gross & John, 1998). According to his process model of emotion regulation, Gross (1999) suggested five regulation strategies: situation selection, situation modification, attentional deployment, cognitive change, and response modulation. He names reappraisal and suppression as two basic strategies to regulate negative emotions. Based on Gross' views of emotional regulation Huang and Guo (2001a, 2001b) distinguished four types of emotional regulation strategies in Chinese culture. These authors found that when people experienced positive emotion, males used more denial and inhibition strategies, and females used more attention and amplification strategies (Huang & Guo, 2001a). Effectively regulating emotion will be beneficial to one's social relationships, social adaptation, and psychological health. Researchers have shown that individuals who use cognitive reappraisal strategies usually have a higher level of self-approval and subjective well-being (Wang, Zhang, Li, & Liu, 2007). Conversely, inappropriate emotion regulation strategies may increase negative effects and harm mental health. In addition, using inhibition as a regulation strategy may increase the risk of cancer and accelerate cancer progression (Campbell-Sills & Barlow, 2007).

Moods are defined as transient episodes of feeling or affect. Affect comprises two higher order factors, known as positive affect and negative affect, which reflect the central organizing role of valence in self-rated affect (Clark & Watson, 1988). That is, the emergence of a general positive or negative affect factor indicates positive or negative mood ratings. Researchers have shown that girls often experience lower positive mood, are more concerned with their appearance, and have more self-deprecatory notions than boys (Watson & Walker, 1996).

Moods particularly relate to emotion regulation, personality, and health. Positive mood is positively correlated with extraversion. Negative mood is positively correlated with anxiety, neuroses, and a wide range of psychological diseases (Clark & Watson, 1988) and also related to inappropriate emotion regulation (Wang et al. …