Personality, counterfactual thinking, and negative emotional reactivity
Objectives People differ substantially in their emotional responses to negative stimuli. Separate lines of research have reported that individual differences and mental simulations contribute to emotional symptoms. Here, we explore the independent and interrelated contribution of personality traits and counterfactual thoughts to the intensity, duration, and overproduction of negative emotions. Method A sample of mixed-level athletes (n = 243) completed questionnaire assessments in relation to their most recent unsuccessful competition. Results We found that personality dimensions (extraversion, neuroticism, and openness) relate to the direction and magnitude of person counterfactuals. We also found that personality dimensions (neuroticism, extraversion, openness, and agreeableness) and the direction of counterfactual thoughts (upward or downward) relate to the intensity, duration, and/or overproduction of negative emotions. Lastly, we found that personality and counterfactual thoughts had independent rather than interrelated contributions to the experience of unpleasant emotions. Conclusions These findings carry important theoretical and practical implications with regard to identifying individuals susceptible to experiencing elevated emotional symptoms in response to short-term stressors.