A Methodological Examination of Emotion Inductions in Borderline Personality Disorder: A Comparison of Standardized Versus Idiographic Stimuli

Abstract

Emotional reactivity is conceptualized as a core feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and has been subject to substantial empirical research. The laboratory methods used to elicit emotional reactivity in BPD have varied and findings across studies have been mixed. At present, there is little research evaluating the relative efficacy of different methods in eliciting emotional reactivity in BPD. Thus, the current study examined differences in emotional reactivity among individuals with BPD in response to standardized and idiographic stimuli, and across three specific emotions (sadness, fear, and anger). Individuals with BPD, social anxiety disorder, and healthy controls viewed film clips (i.e., standardized stimuli) or engaged in a personally-relevant imagery task (i.e., idiographic stimuli) while self-reported and physiological indices (skin conductance response and respiratory sinus arrhythmia) of emotion were collected. Results indicated that BPD participants displayed greater reactivity of sadness and anger (but not fear) in response to the idiographic versus standardized stimuli, a pattern that was not exhibited by the other two groups. These findings might explain some of the mixed evidence to date and suggest that idiographic sadness and fear inductions may be more effective for individuals with BPD.

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Correspondence to Janice R. Kuo.

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Kuo, J.R., Neacsiu, A.D., Fitzpatrick, S. et al. A Methodological Examination of Emotion Inductions in Borderline Personality Disorder: A Comparison of Standardized Versus Idiographic Stimuli. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 36, 155–164 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-013-9378-x

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Keywords

  • Laboratory methods
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Emotion
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Emotion regulation