Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1–15 | Cite as

Affect Intensity Moderates the Association of Emotional Clarity with Emotion Regulation and Depressive Symptoms in Unselected and Treatment-Seeking Samples

  • Vera VineEmail author
  • Brett Marroquín
Original Article


Depression is associated with subjective difficulties identifying one’s emotions, known as low emotional clarity, but the mediators and moderators of this relationship are not well understood. We hypothesized that the role of emotional clarity in emotion regulation and, in turn, depression depends on individual differences in negative affect intensity. In Study 1, conducted in an unselected sample (N = 119), low emotional clarity more strongly predicted depression symptoms among individuals higher in affect intensity. In Study 2, conducted in a clinically diagnosed, treatment-seeking sample (N = 245), we examined whether affect intensity moderated an indirect path of clarity through emotion regulation strategy use that has emerged in previous work. Except when affect intensity was very low, emotional clarity predicted reappraisal, and except when affect intensity was very high, emotional clarity predicted non-acceptance and experiential avoidance. By contrast, rumination mediated associations of emotional clarity with depressive symptoms regardless of affect intensity. Findings support a process model of low emotional clarity in depression that integrates (1) emotion regulatory mediators and (2) moderation by negative affect intensity. Trait differences in affect intensity may determine whether and how emotional clarity and regulation processes factor into mood psychopathology.


Emotional clarity Emotion awareness Depression Affect intensity Emotion regulation 



The authors are grateful to the Yale Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorders. They thank Jutta Joormann and the members of the Affect Regulation and Cognition Lab at Yale University for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


Vera Vine was partially supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant T32 MH018951. Brett Marroquín was partially supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant T32 MH015750.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Vera Vine and Brett Marroquín 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

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal Rights Statements

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


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLoyola Marymount UniversityLos AngelesUSA

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