Bidirectional-Compounding Effects of Rumination and Negative Emotion in Predicting Impulsive Behavior: Implications for Emotional Cascades

Edward A. Selby, Amy Kranzler, Emily Panza, Kara B. Fehling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Influenced by chaos theory, the emotional cascade model proposes that rumination and negative emotion may promote each other in a self-amplifying cycle that increases over time. Accordingly, exponential-compounding effects may better describe the relationship between rumination and negative emotion when they occur in impulsive persons, and predict impulsive behavior. Forty-seven community and undergraduate participants who reported frequent engagement in impulsive behaviors monitored their ruminative thoughts and negative emotion multiple times daily for two weeks using digital recording devices. Hypotheses were tested using cross-lagged mixed model analyses. Findings indicated that rumination predicted subsequent elevations in rumination that lasted over extended periods of time. Rumination and negative emotion predicted increased levels of each other at subsequent assessments, and exponential functions for these associations were supported. Results also supported a synergistic effect between rumination and negative emotion, predicting larger elevations in subsequent rumination and negative emotion than when one variable alone was elevated. Finally, there were synergistic effects of rumination and negative emotion in predicting number of impulsive behaviors subsequently reported. These findings are consistent with the emotional cascade model in suggesting that momentary rumination and negative emotion progressively propagate and magnify each other over time in impulsive people, promoting impulsive behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-153
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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