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Increased moment-to-moment predictability, or inertia, of negative affect has been identified as an important dynamic marker of psychological maladjustment, and increased vulnerability to depression in particular. However, little is known about the processes underlying emotional inertia. The current article examines how the emotional context, and people’s responses to it, are related to emotional inertia. We investigated how individual differences in the inertia of negative affect (NA) are related to individual differences in exposure, reactivity, and recovery from emotional events, in daily life (assessed using experience sampling) as well as in the lab (assessed using an emotional film-clip task), among 200 participants commencing their first year of tertiary education. This dual-method approach allowed us to assess affective responding on different timescales, and in response to standardized as well as idiographic emotional stimuli. Our most consistent finding, across both methods, was that heightened NA inertia is related to decreased NA recovery following negative stimuli, suggesting that higher levels of inertia may be mostly driven by impairments in affect repair following negative events.

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Journal Article

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