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Emotional inertia—the degree to which people's feelings carry over from one moment to the next—is an important property of the temporal dynamics of emotions. Thus far, emotional inertia has only been examined as a stable, trait-like characteristic. However, internal or external events (e.g., stress) may trigger changes in people's emotion dynamics, particularly among individuals with heightened sensitivity to such events. The current study investigated how emotional inertia is influenced by the anticipation of social stress, and how this effect is moderated by individual differences in depression, self-esteem, and fear of negative evaluation. We measured participants' (n = 71) emotional inertia in daily life using experience sampling before and after experimentally manipulating anticipatory social stress. Consistent with previous research, psychological maladjustment was associated with higher emotional inertia during 'normal' daily life. However, when anticipating a socially stressful event, levels of emotional inertia dropped, particularly among participants scoring high on depression and fear of negative evaluation and low on self-esteem. These results demonstrate that emotion dynamics can vary as a function of contextual factors and identify moderators of such variation.


School of Psychology

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Journal Article

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