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Extending reducer/augmenter theory into the emotion domain: The role of affect in regulating stimulation level

Personality and Individual Differences
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0191-8869(91)90227-3


Abstract According to reducer/augmenter theory, augmenters are assumed to react to sensory stimuli with enhanced responsiveness, whereas reducers respond to the same stimuli with dampened responsiveness. Due to their generally understimulated condition, reducers are motivated to seek out stronger or more intense forms of sensory stimulation. When emotion is viewed as a source of stimulation, it becomes plausible to hypothesize that reducers and augmenters may differentially utilize their emotions to modulate stimulation level. Results from Study 1 show that, after a period of boredom, reducers chose more frequently than augmenters to participate in an arousing, emotion-induction experiment, even though they believed the experience would involve the induction of negative affect. Reducers also found the initial boredom-induction task to be significantly more boring and less interesting than the augmenters. Study 2 found that reducers were more likely than augmenters to engage in activities that have a higher probability of evoking emotion in their natural, ongoing lives. Reducers also exhibited episodes of stronger affect and more frequently novelty- and sensation-seeking in their ongoing natural lives than augmenters. Implications of these results for reducer/augmenter theory and for understanding the role of emotion in arousal regulation are discussed, and directions for future research are proposed.

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