Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When words get hot, mental multitaskers collect cool

Date:
May 12, 2011
Source:
Case Western Reserve University
Summary:
How useful would it be to anticipate how well someone will control their emotions? To predict how well they might be able to stay calm during stress? To accept critical feedback stoically? A psychology professor finds clues in what psychologists call "hot" and "cold" psychology.

How useful would it be to anticipate how well someone will control their emotions? To predict how well they might be able to stay calm during stress? To accept critical feedback stoically?

Heath A. Demaree, professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University, finds clues in what psychologists call "hot" and "cold" psychology.

"People differ with regard to how well they can control their emotions, and one factor that predicts it is non-emotional in nature -- it is a 'cold' cognitive construct," Demaree explains referring to Working Memory Capacity.

Working memory capacity, or WMC, is the "ability to process a stream of information while engaging in a separate task or while being distracted" he said. For example, taking notes during a lecture: you must listen to what the lecturer is saying at the moment, remember what has already been said, and write it down.

People with a high level of working memory capacity were best at using a coping mechanism to make themselves feel better and control negative emotions after being harshly criticized.

This kind of research where "cold" cognitive psychology meets "hot" emotional psychology is a new route providing the foundation for Demaree's recent study: "Working Memory Capacity and Spontaneous Emotion Regulation: High Capacity Predicts Self-Enhancement in Response to Negative Feedback," published in Emotion.

In the study, Demaree and Brandon J. Schmeichel, a professor of psychology at Texas A&M University, test connections between high WMC and the control of emotions.

Demaree explains that this research is "rare because it predicts how emotional functioning is related to WMC… and ours is some of the first research that shows that cold cognition predicts hot emotion."

This research follows a 2008 study, "Working Memory Capacity and the Self-Regulation of Emotional Expression and Experience" conducted by Demaree, Schmeichel, and Rachael N. Volokhov. The researchers found that though emotions can be controlled, people with higher WMC were better at managing their emotions when directed to do so.

"The 2010 study employs the same ideas, but it additionally showed that people with high WMC control their emotions more naturally -- when NOT directed to do so, as well," Demaree said.

To determine WMC, participants were asked to solve mathematical problems while remembering words; those who had the most correct were identified as having a higher WMC.

The researchers then gave each person a test, then provided either negative feedback or no feedback, and determined whether the emotional reaction to the feedback affected their responses on a subsequent test.

This negative feedback consisted of exaggerated claims on the individual's character such as "your responses indicate that you have a tendency to be egotistical, placing your own needs ahead of the interests of others" or that "if you fail to mature emotionally or change your lifestyle, you may have difficulty maintaining these friendships and are likely to form insecure relations."

Immediately after receiving negative or no feedback, participants were asked to rate their familiarity with a list of people and places.

This list had 72 real items such as Mae West and hydroponics, as well as 18 fake items including Queen Alberta and plates of parallax.

These foils were put on the list to check if any person would "over claim" -- meaning they would exaggerate their familiarly with the object. Such over claiming is well known to make people feel better about themselves and control their reactions to criticism.

While over claiming in a public place may be viewed as boastful and immodest, over claiming when criticized or belittled is an effective tool for calming heated emotions.

Researchers found that among those who received negative feedback, people with higher levels of WMC over claimed the most.

Importantly, at the end of the study, it was those people who over claimed the most who also reported the least negative emotions such as being ashamed, upset, or distressed.

Stated differently, people with higher WMC automatically used a strategy that made them feel better and remained controlled when confronted with a negative situation such as criticism or a personal attack, Demaree explained.

Being able to predict emotional responses can be useful in multiple ways.

Emotion regulation techniques can be tailored to individuals based on how likely they're able to employ them.

Emotional reappraisal strategies, such as controlling one's facial expression or changing negative situations into positive ones using coping methods, can be taught to help people better handle everyday emotional stressors. These strategies are often more beneficial than suppressing emotion.

In addition to its practical applications, this exploration into emotions -- how and why they are managed -- is intriguing. As Demaree explains, "It should be interesting. Who doesn't think about their emotions? It's engaging; it's life."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. The original article was written by Christine Marchello. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brandon J. Schmeichel, Heath A. Demaree. Working memory capacity and spontaneous emotion regulation: High capacity predicts self-enhancement in response to negative feedback.. Emotion, 2010; 10 (5): 739 DOI: 10.1037/a0019355

Cite This Page:

Case Western Reserve University. "When words get hot, mental multitaskers collect cool." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511114217.htm>.
Case Western Reserve University. (2011, May 12). When words get hot, mental multitaskers collect cool. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511114217.htm
Case Western Reserve University. "When words get hot, mental multitaskers collect cool." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110511114217.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stroke in Young Adults

Stroke in Young Adults

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) A stroke can happen at any time and affect anyone regardless of age. This mother chose to give her son independence and continue to live a normal life after he had a stroke at 18 years old. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Distracted Adults: ADHD?

Distracted Adults: ADHD?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Most people don’t realize that ADHD isn’t just for kids. It can affect the work as well as personal lives of many adults, and often times they don’t even know they have it. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Sight and Sounds of Autism

The Sight and Sounds of Autism

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) A new study is explaining why for some people with autism what they see and what they hear is out of sync. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experiences Make Us Happy, Even Just Waiting For Them

Experiences Make Us Happy, Even Just Waiting For Them

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) New research finds we get more excited to buy experiences than we do to buy material things. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins