The Influence of Anger on Implicit Biases
Interpretation of ambiguous information is influenced by anxious (Richards, Reynolds, & French, 1992) and depressive (Wisco, & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2010) symptoms. Emotion regulation strategies, and in particular, cognitive reappraisal has shown to be effective at reducing feelings of distress (Denson, Grisham, & Moulds, 2011). The current study seeks to understand the extent that emotion regulation can influence interpretation bias, thoughts and behaviors. In the current study, participants underwent both Angry and Neutral mood inductions. For each mood condition, participants were instructed to cognitively reappraise and attend to their emotions. Participants rated the degree of negative affect they experienced, and completed 6 sentence completion items to assess interpretation bias. Results indicated that participants exhibited an increased negative interpretation bias in the Angry condition relative to baseline. Following reappraisal, participants rated less negative affect in the Angry condition. Though, reappraisal did not change interpretation bias. However, self-report data indicated that individuals who tend to struggle to engage in emotion regulation techniques and those who endorsed higher levels of state anger, both showed greater negative affect following cognitive reappraisal and an increased negativity bias. Participants who reported that they engaged in cognitive reappraisal during the mood induction, exhibited an increased positivity bias. Results from this study indicate that cognitive reappraisal is an effective strategy to reduce feelings of negativity in an angry mood state, however, participants are still at risk for displaying a negative interpretation bias to ambiguous information.