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Emotional Granularity Increases With Intensive Ambulatory Assessment: Methodological and Individual Factors Influence How Much.

Hoemann K, Barrett LF, Quigley KS. Emotional Granularity Increases With Intensive Ambulatory Assessment: Methodological and Individual Factors Influence How Much. Frontiers in psychology. 2021 Jul 28; 12:704125.

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Individuals differ in their ability to create instances of emotion that are precise and context-specific. This skill - referred to as or - is associated with positive mental health outcomes. To date, however, little work has examined whether and how emotional granularity might be increased. Emotional granularity is typically measured using data from experience sampling studies, in which participants are prompted to report on their emotional experiences multiple times per day, across multiple days. This measurement approach allows researchers to examine patterns of responses over time using real-world events. Recent work suggests that experience sampling itself may facilitate increases in emotional granularity in depressed individuals, such that it may serve both empirical and interventional functions. We replicated and extended these findings in healthy adults, using data from an intensive ambulatory assessment study including experience sampling, peripheral physiological monitoring, and end-of-day diaries. We also identified factors that might distinguish individuals who showed larger increases over the course of experience sampling and examined the extent of the impact of these factors. We found that increases in emotional granularity over time were facilitated by methodological factors, such as number of experience sampling prompts responded to per day, as well as individual factors, such as resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia. These results provide support for the use of experience sampling methods to improve emotional granularity, raise questions about the boundary conditions of this effect, and have implications for the conceptualization of emotional granularity and its relationship with emotional health.

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