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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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129. Emotion Expression Suppression Relates to Lower Empathy

Previous studies investigating emotion regulation found that participants who often suppress expression of emotions tend to experience more negative emotions and fewer positive emotions, have fewer close relationships, and have lower social satisfaction. One study found expressive and experiential suppression of emotions when forgiving an offender acutely decreased negative emotional experience but did not increase empathy. This suggests that suppression of expression may relate to reduced empathy, but it appears that this topic has not been directly examined. In our study, empathy was investigated using the self-report Level of Personality Functioning Scale, while emotion expression suppression was measured using the self-report Emotion Experience and Expressive Suppression Scale. The analysis included 1,422 undergraduate students (62.7% female; mean age = 19.79, SD = 3.53, range = 18 to 57). Using a mixed ANCOVA, covarying for age and sex, we found that increased suppression of emotion expression related to lower empathy, which did not interact with valence of the emotion expression, sex, or the combination of the two. This suggests that individuals who suppress expression, regardless of the emotions experienced, tend to have reduced empathy, which is consistent with the relationship between emotional suppression and interpersonal issues found in previous studies.

Chloe LaRochelle
University of Central Florida

Christopher Spencer
University of Central Florida

Samantha Simpson
University of Central Florida

Jeffrey Bedwell
University of Central Florida


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