Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Goldman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marina Bornovalova, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eun Sook Kim, Ph.D.


Major Depressive Disorder, Emotional Reactivity, EMA


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is primarily characterized by prevalent sadness and anhedonia. Laboratory studies find that depression is characterized by reduced reactivity across emotional contexts, while a few studies using naturalistic designs find that depressed people show normative reactivity to negative life events and mood brightening in response to positive events. The current study was an investigation of emotional reactivity in depression through the use of experimental and naturalistic designs. This allowed for an investigation of sources of lab-life discrepancies in emotional functioning in depression, including negative affect (NA) regulation. We examined experiential reactivity across contexts and types of stimuli in 41 currently depressed (MDD) and 33 healthy controls. Results showed that overall, our groups were largely indistinguishable in NA and PA reactivity magnitude across contexts and types of stimuli, with some exceptions. When looking at sadness reactivity specifically, despite higher sadness at baseline, MDDs reported in the lab similar decreases in sadness to a humorous film as controls. In daily life, MDDs reported larger decreases in sadness in response to positive daily events, yet indistinguishable reactivity to a structured humorous film relative to controls. Analyses using HLM showed that NA response to the happy film in the acceptance condition was marginally predictive of overall NA in daily life but not of NA reactivity to positive events. Findings suggest group differences in emotional reactivity vary across contexts and stimuli, however these variations are dependent on specificity of emotion. Current results possibly highlight increased flexibility during experience of positive events in daily life in depression. Acceptance of NA may have implications for the experience of overall negative mood in depression.