The Influence of Agreeableness and Ego Depletion on Emotional Responding
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OBJECTIVE: Agreeable individuals report more intense withdrawal-oriented negative emotions across aversive situations. Two studies tested the hypothesis that self-regulatory depletion (i.e., ego depletion) moderates the relationship between trait Agreeableness and negative emotional responding. METHOD: Ego depletion was manipulated using a writing task. Emotional responding was measured with startle eye-blink responses (Study 1, N = 71) and self-reported valence, arousal, and empathic concern (Study 2, N = 256) during emotional picture viewing. Trait Agreeableness was measured using a questionnaire. RESULTS: In Study 1, Agreeableness predicted especially large startle responses during aversive images and especially small startles during appetitive images. After exercising self-control, the relationship between startle magnitudes and Agreeableness decreased. In Study 2, Agreeableness predicted more empathic concern for aversive images, which in turn predicted heightened self-reported negative emotions. After exercising self-control, the relationship between Agreeableness and empathic concern decreased. CONCLUSIONS: Agreeable individuals exhibit heightened negative emotional responding. Ego depletion reduced the link between Agreeableness and negative emotional responding in Study 1 and moderated the indirect effect of Agreeableness on negative emotional responding via empathic concern in Study 2. Empathic concern appears to be a resource-intensive process underlying heightened responding to aversive stimuli among agreeable persons.
author list (cited authors)
Finley, A. J., Crowell, A. L., Harmon‐Jones, E., & Schmeichel, B. J.