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Is more emotional clarity always better? An examination of curvilinear and moderated associations between emotional clarity and internalising symptoms

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journal contribution
posted on 24.05.2019 by Juhyun Park, Kristin Naragon-Gainey

Low emotional clarity has been a target for psychological interventions due to its association with increased internalising symptoms. However, theory suggests that very high emotional clarity may also lead to increased symptoms, particularly in combination with high levels of neuroticism. As an initial empirical test of this hypothesis, the present study examined curvilinear associations of emotional clarity with internalising symptoms (i.e. dysphoria, social anxiety, panic, traumatic intrusions) and a moderating role of neuroticism/negative affect in the association across two student samples and two clinical samples (total N = 920). Evidence of curvilinear associations and moderation varied across samples, with some supporting evidence in three samples. Specifically, neuroticism/negative affect moderated the curvilinear association of emotional clarity with traumatic intrusions in Clinical Sample 2 as well as the linear association between emotional clarity and dysphoria in Student Sample 2 and Clinical Sample 1. Simple slope analyses indicated that high emotional clarity was not consistently associated with lower symptoms. Also, the hypothesised quadratic effects of emotional clarity were found in Student Sample 2 and Clinical Sample 1 for panic, and in Clinical Sample 1 for dysphoria. Implications and limitations of these findings for conceptualisations of emotional clarity and current treatments were discussed.


This research was supported in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health under award R21AT009470 (PIs: Naragon-Gainey and DeMarree). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.