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Deadlines, Transitions Heat Up Emotions

Study finds individuals react more intensely when time is precious

THURSDAY, May 26, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Overworked, on-the-go, stressed Americans, you're not alone: A new study finds that time constraints and impending deadlines encourage emotional highs and lows.

"Given time limits, people showed more extreme emotions on both the positive and negative ends of the scale," study author Ursina Teuscher, a psychologist and postdoctoral researcher in the cognitive science department at University of California, San Diego, said in a prepared statement.

The study involved 165 people, average age about 20 years, each of whom were instructed to imagine themselves in several different scenarios. Some of the scenarios included a "limited-future" condition, such as the last day of a holiday. The other scenarios differed in that they made no mention of the future at all.

The study volunteers read the scenarios and then ranked how intensely they felt 31 different emotions.

When the scenario involved some kind of looming transition (for example, a move to another city or the final day of a holiday), participants reacted with more intense emotion than if the future was more open-ended. "The test results suggest that a different time perspective itself can cause differences in emotional complexity and intensity," Teuscher said.

The findings may have broad implications, "in the study of how people cope with endings and transitions, not only death but also separations, migration, job changes or retirement -- in short, any critical life event requiring people to deal with the foreseeable end of a situation," the San Diego researcher said.

The study was presented Thursday at the American Psychological Society annual meeting, in Los Angeles.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has information about emotional health.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, May 26, 2005
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