Intensity of positive and negative emotions: Explaining the association between personality and depressive symptoms

Annemiek Karreman*, Marcel A.L.M. Van Assen, Marrie H.J. Bekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim was to examine to what extent emotional intensity accounted for associations between the Big Five personality dimensions and depressive symptoms. Study 1 tested the model cross-sectionally, using survey data of 266 Dutch social science students. Study 2 experimentally examined how personality dimensions were related to emotional reactivity after exposure to various emotional stimuli. Dutch psychology students (N= 130) reported on their personality and viewed an amusing or sad film clip, after which the change in intensity of experienced positive and negative emotions was assessed. Individuals scoring higher on neuroticism generally experienced more intense negative emotions, through which they experienced a higher level of depressive symptoms. Individuals who were more agreeable experienced a lower level of depressive symptoms indirectly through higher general intensity of positive emotions. More agreeable individuals showed stronger increase in negative emotions and stronger decrease in positive emotions, though after exposure to the sad stimulus only. Although replication is needed, our results offer empirical support for a more taylor-made approach in decreasing nonclinical depressive symptoms taking into account both personality characteristics and emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-220
Number of pages7
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Big Five
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Emotional intensity
  • Negative emotions
  • Personality
  • Positive emotions


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