Date of Award

Winter 12-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Additional Affiliations

Clinical Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Meta-emotions are emotions that occur in response to other emotions (e.g., guilt about anger). Although preliminary evidence indicates that depression is associated with a greater likelihood of meta-emotions, much remains unknown about meta-emotions, including how regularly they are experienced and whether emotional awareness constructs (including attention to and clarity of emotion) influence their occurrence. In the present study, we aim to establish norms for meta-emotions in everyday life, determine whether increased emotional awareness is associated with a greater likelihood of meta-emotions, and examine whether negative emotions about negative emotions (negative-negative meta-emotional experiences) are associated with depressive severity. We recruited an adult community sample (n=79) to complete seven days of experience sampling. At each survey, they indicated current attention to emotion, clarity of emotion, and whether and what kind of meta-emotional experience they were having. Experiences were categorized as negative-negative, negative-positive, positive-positive or negative-negative. Approximately 53% of participants reported at least one meta-emotional experience. Meta-emotional experiences were reported about twice a week; negative-negative experiences were most frequent. Although attention to and clarity of emotion each individually predicted the likelihood of meta-emotional experiences, only attention to emotion contributed unique variance. Using multi-level modeling, we found that higher self-reported depressive severity was associated with the likelihood of meta-emotional experiences and specifically with negative-negative experiences. Findings indicate that most adults experience meta-emotions, especially during moments of high attention to emotion, and that negative-negative experiences are associated with depressive severity. These findings suggest that treatments for depression would benefit from emphasizing acceptance of negative emotions.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Dr. Renee Thompson

Committee Members

Dr. Tammy English, Dr. Tom Rodebaugh


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