Date of this Version
Affective Science https://doi.org/10.1007/s42761-021-00059-5
Higher reactivity to stress exposure is associated with an increased tendency to appraise ambiguous stimuli as negative. However, it remains unknown whether tendencies to use emotion regulation strategies—such as cognitive reappraisal, which involves altering the meaning or relevance of affective stimuli—can shape individual differences regarding how stress affects perceptions of ambiguity. Here, we examined whether increased reappraisal use is one factor that can determine whether stress exposure induces increased negativity bias. In Study 1, healthy participants (n = 43) rated the valence of emotionally ambiguous (surprised) faces before and after an acute stress or control manipulation and reported reappraisal habits. Increased negativity ratings were milder for stressed individuals that reported more habitual reappraisal use. In Study 2 (n = 97), we extended this investigation to real-world perceived stress before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that reappraisal tendency moderates the relationship between perceived stress and increased negativity bias. Collectively, these findings suggest that the propensity to reappraise determines negativity bias when evaluating ambiguity under stress.