Understanding positive emotion deficits in depression: From emotion preferences to emotion regulation

W. Michael Vanderlind*, Yael Millgram, Arielle R. Baskin-Sommers, Margaret S. Clark, Jutta Joormann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Depression is characterized by increased levels of negative affect and decreased levels of positive affect. Prior research shows that individual differences in emotion regulation play an important role in understanding sustained negative affect within the disorder; yet, much less is known about the regulation of positive emotion in depression. The current paper utilizes emotion regulation models that synthesizes multiple emotion processes, including what people want to feel (emotion preferences) and the ways in which people typically respond to emotion (habitual use of emotion regulation strategies), to increase our understanding of positive emotion in depression. In doing so, we propose that depression is associated with relative reductions in the preference for positive emotion; these reductions may therefore increase the habitual use of emotion regulation strategies that serve to down-regulate positive emotion and decrease the use of strategies that serve to up-regulate positive emotion. Dysfunction in habitual emotion regulation strategy use may, in turn, contribute to the relatively low levels of positive emotion within the disorder. The paper also discusses important empirical gaps in the extant literature on emotion preferences and emotion regulation in depression and highlights novel treatment targets (e.g., emotion preferences) for interventions aimed at improving emotion dysfunction in depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101826
JournalClinical Psychology Review
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Emotion preferences
  • Emotion regulation
  • Positive emotion


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