Facial Emotion Identification and Sensitivity: Examining The Interaction Between Emotion Dysregulation and Affective State
Perception of emotional cues is highly susceptible to emotion dysregulation – a maladaptive emotional response prominently expressed in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The borderline empathy paradox, i.e., heightened sensitivity to socio-contextual stimuli, is most evident in presentation of subtle facial cues (emotion sensitivity). In contrast, recognition of the full emotional expression has been associated with accuracy deficits (emotion identification), accompanied by intensity in affect. The present study aimed to explore the significance of baseline affect on emotion identification and sensitivity, in relation to BPD traits and emotion dysregulation. Participants (n = 100) completed a battery of self-report measures used to assess personality traits, behavior, anxiety, and mood, followed by presentation of static faces expressing emotions at different intensities – identification (100% of the emotion) and sensitivity task (0-80% of the emotion). There were no significant interaction effects between negative affect and BPD symptoms in predicting identification and sensitivity accuracy. However, exploratory analyses revealed that individuals with greater emotion regulation difficulties were significantly less accurate in identification of fully expressed joy when higher in negative affect, and less accurate in identification of subtle emotional cues when higher in positive affect. These findings highlight the importance of considering both subjective affect and emotion regulation in emotion recognition research.