Adolescents’ emotion system dynamics: Network-based analysis of physiological and emotional experience.

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An individual’s emotions system can be conceived of as a synchronized, coordinated, and/or emergent combination of physiology, experience, and behavioral components. Together, the interplay among these components produce emotional experiences through coordinated excitatory positive feedback (i.e., the mutual amplification of emotion concordance) and/or inhibitory negative feedback (i.e., the damping of emotion regulation) processes. Different system configurations produce differential psychophysiological reactivity profiles, and by implication, differential moment-to-moment emotional experience and long-term development. Applying dynamic systems models to second-by-second psychophysiological and experience time-series data collected from 130 adolescents (age 12.0 to 16.7 years) completing a social stress-inducing speech task, we describe the configuration of adolescents’ emotion systems, and examine how differences in the dynamic outputs of those systems (psychophysiological reactivity profile) are related to individual differences in trait anxiety. We found substantial heterogeneity in the coordination patterns of these adolescents. Some individuals’ emotion systems were characterized by negative feedback loops (emotion regulation processes), many by unidirectionally connected or independent components, and a few by positive feedback loops (emotion concordance). The reactivity dynamics of respiratory sinus arrhythmia were related to adolescents’ level of trait anxiety. Results highlight how dynamic systems models may contribute to our understanding of interindividual and developmental differences.

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