Date of Award

Summer 6-19-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

Department

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Amy Mezulis, Ph.D.

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Lynette Bikos, Ph.D.

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Sarah Crystal, Ph.D.

Abstract

Emotional clarity (EC) refers to the ability to identify, understand, and distinguish one’s emotions (Gohm & Clore, 2000). The literature suggests that EC is highly related to emotion regulation (ER), such that individuals with higher EC are more likely to use adaptive ER strategies and individuals with lower EC are more likely to use maladaptive ER strategies (Vine & Aldao, 2014). EC has been measured with both self-report measures and physiological tasks. Due to the limitations of both self-report measures and physiological tasks, I aimed to develop a behavioral measure of EC using the concordance between change in individuals’ physiological responding and change in their subjective emotional states before and during a stressor task. In part one of the study, I created a behavioral measure and compared it to individuals’ self-reported emotional clarity. In part two, I examined the concurrent validity of the behavioral EC measure by assessing its relationships with maladaptive ER, adaptive ER, and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI, a maladaptive ER strategy). Participants were 127 (90% female, Mage = 19.51, SDage = 1.31) young adults. Participants completed questionnaires of self-reported emotional clarity and ER strategies. Then, participants completed a modified Trier Social Stress Test in the laboratory (TSST; Waugh, Panage, Mendes, & Gotlib, 2010). Heartbeat was measured throughout and self-rated negative affect was measured before and after stress. Results indicated that behavioral EC was not associated with self-reported EC (r = .14, p = .178). Furthermore, structural equation modeling results indicated that behavioral EC did not predict maladaptive ER (β = .18, p = .733), adaptive ER (β = .61, p = .497), or NSSI (β = .40, p = .618). Examinations of the relations between study variables suggested that self-reported EC may have been a more accurate measure of EC in the current sample. Limitations of the current study may have impacted the ability for the behavioral measure to properly capture the construct of EC. Future research is needed to more fully understand whether a behavioral measure of EC is feasible.

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