Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 362–368 | Cite as

Remembering the Good Ole Days: Fear of Positive Emotion Relates to Affect Repair Using Positive Memories

  • W. Michael VanderlindEmail author
  • Colin H. Stanton
  • Anna Weinbrecht
  • Elizabeth A. Velkoff
  • Jutta Joormann
Original Article


Recalling positive autobiographical memories is a powerful strategy to repair affect. Positive memory recall operates as a reparative strategy by enhancing positive affect, which facilitates the down-regulation of negative affect. There are individual differences, however, in the ability to use positive material to repair mood. Participants with elevated depression scores, for example, are less likely to profit from this strategy. Depression has been associated with elevated fear of positive emotion and the current study examined whether elevated fear of positive emotion is associated with depression-related difficulties in mood repair. Ninety-four participants first underwent a mood repair task in which a sad mood induction was followed by a cue to recall positive autobiographical memories. Subjective measures of state happiness and sadness were collected across the mood induction and positive memory recall procedures. Results revealed that greater fear of positive emotion was linked to less ability to enhance positive affect and down-regulate negative affect using positive memories. Results also provided preliminary support for a mediation model in which greater depressive symptoms predicted elevated fear of positive emotion, which in turn predicted less ability to repair positive affect. These findings highlight fear of positive emotion as a potential target for interventions aimed at improving affect regulation.


Fear of emotion Emotion regulation Autobiographical memory Depression 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

MV, CS, AW, EV and JJ declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (national and institutional). Informed consent was obtained from all individual subjects participating in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


  1. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). Beck depression inventory manual (2nd ed.). San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  3. Dozois, D. J. A., Dobson, K. S., & Ahnberg, J. L. (1998). A psychometric evaluation of the Beck Depression Inventory-II. Psychological Assessment, 10(2), 83–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Goldstein, A. J., & Chambless, D. L. (1978). A reanalysis of agoraphobia. Behavior Therapy, 9, 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gross, J. J. (2014). Emotion regulation: Conceptual and empirical foundations. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  7. Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(2), 348–362.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Gross, J. J., & Levenson, R. W. (1995). Emotion elicitation using films. Cognition and Emotion, 9(1), 87–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Isen, A. M. (1985). Asymmetry of happiness and sadness in effects on memory in normal college students: Comment on Hasher, Rose, Zacks, Sanft, and Doren. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 114(3), 388–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Joormann, J., & Siemer, M. (2004). Memory accessibility, mood regulation, and dysphoria: Difficulties in repairing sad mood with happy memories? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113(2), 179–188.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Joormann, J., & Siemer, M. (2014). Emotion regulation in mood disorders. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. Joormann, J., Siemer, M., & Gotlib, I. H. (2007). Mood regulation in depression: Differential effects of distraction and recall of happy memories on sad mood. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116(3), 484–490.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Josephson, B. R., Singer, J. A., & Salovey, P. (1996). Mood regulation and memory: Repairing sad moods with happy memories. Cognition and Emotion, 10(4), 437–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lovell, D., & Zeffirelli, F. (1979). The champ. [Video/DVD]. Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).Google Scholar
  15. Melka, S. E., Lancaster, S. L., Bryant, A. R., Rodriguez, B. F., & Weston, R. (2011). An exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis of the Affective Control Scale in an undergraduate sample. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 33(4), 501–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Millgram, Y., Joormann, J., Huppert, J. D., & Tamir, M. (2015). Sad as a matter of choice? Emotion-regulation goals in depression. Psychological Science. Retrieved November 12, 2015 from
  17. Olatunji, B. O., Moretz, M. W., & Zlomke, K. R. (2010). Linking cognitive avoidance and GAD symptoms: The mediating role of fear of emotion. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48(5), 435–441.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36(4), 717–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Reiss, S. (1991). Expectancy model of fear, anxiety, and panic. Clinical Psychology Review, 11(2), 141–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sakaki, M. (2007). Mood and recall of autobiographical memory: The effects of focus on self-knowledge. Journal of Personality, 75(3), 421–450.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Segal, Z. V., Kennedy, S., Gemar, M., Hood, K., Pedersen, R., & Buis, T. (2006). Cognitive reactivity to sad mood provocation and the prediction of depressive relapse. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 749–755.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Turk, C. L., Heimberg, R. G., Luterek, J. A., Mennin, D. S., & Fresco, D. M. (2005). Emotion dysregulation in generalized anxiety disorder: A comparison with social anxiety disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29(1), 89–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wegner, D. M., Erber, R., & Zanakos, S. (1993). Ironic process in the mental control of mood and mood-related thought. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(6), 1093–1104.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Werner-Seidler, A., Banks, R., Dunn, B. D., & Moulds, M. L. (2013). An investigation of the relationship between positive affect regulation and depression. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51(1), 46–56.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Werner-Seidler, A., & Moulds, M. L. (2012). Mood repair and processing mode in depression. Emotion, 12(3), 470–478.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Williams, K. E., Chambless, D. L., & Ahrens, A. (1997). Are emotions frightening? An extension of the fear of fear construct. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35(3), 239–248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Michael Vanderlind
    • 1
    Email author
  • Colin H. Stanton
    • 1
  • Anna Weinbrecht
    • 2
  • Elizabeth A. Velkoff
    • 3
  • Jutta Joormann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA

Personalised recommendations