Integrating Channels of Emotion: Individual Differences in Subjective Experience, Psychophysiology and Neural Activity

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Emotions infuse each individual’s life with meaning, informing their memories and guiding their future decisions. Previous research has emphasized three important channels of emotion: subjective experience, psychophysiology and neural activity. In addition, research has found that individuals manage their emotions across channels in a diversity of ways. However, most of this research narrowly focuses on a single channel of emotion and misses key aspects of these individual differences. Across 4 studies, this dissertation highlights the immense variability in emotional experiences by integrating channels of emotion. The first empirical chapter (Chapter 2) focuses on subjective channels of emotion and reveals a fundamental aspect of emotion previously unknown—that positive events are actually less complex than negative events, and that individuals evaluate positive events more similarly than negative events. The next chapter (Chapter 3) uses a novel computational approach to identify a whole-brain biomarker of the tendency to suppress negative emotion. The following chapter (Chapter 4) focuses on psychophysiological channels of emotion and investigates the effect of anxiety on how individuals manage their emotions naturally versus when following instructions in the laboratory. Participants report managing their emotions in ways that did not did not reflect how they regulated in the lab—highlighting the importance of conducting research outside the laboratory. Based on this, the final empirical chapter (Chapter 5) uses experience sampling to leave the confines of the laboratory and study people in the wild. Participant responses show that multiple components of emotional health improve with age, including emotional stability, affect, and the ability to resist desire—a finding missing from laboratory-based research. No two individuals are alike in how they experience and manage their emotions. This research emphasizes the vast variability in how individuals experience and manage emotion depending on their goals and the larger context. This holistic framework enhances our understanding of the full spectrum of emotional functioning and brings the field closer to a personalized account of emotion.





Burr, Daisy Alma (2021). Integrating Channels of Emotion: Individual Differences in Subjective Experience, Psychophysiology and Neural Activity. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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