Background: Enhanced processing of emotional stimuli after stress exposure is reported to be associated with stress-induced cortisol. Because enhanced emotional information processing could make cognitive emotion regulation more difficult, it was hypothesized that stress-induced cortisol would be associated with non-negative interpretation generation associated with the cognitive reappraisal processes. Methods: A total of 36 participants (Mean age = 21.3years, SD = 1.8) watched video clips of depression-related stressful situations before and after the administration of a stress induction task. They were then asked to generate as many non-negative interpretations as possible to reduce the depressive mood. Saliva samples were obtained before and after the stress induction task to measure change in the cortisol level. Results: Participants were allocated post-hoc to either a responder (n = 19) or non-responder group (n = 17) based on the cortisol response to the stress induction task. The number of non-negative interpretations generated following the stress induction task was reduced only in the cortisol responders. The number of post-stress non-negative interpretations was fewer in the responder group when compared by sex, baseline cortisol level, and the number of pre-stress non-negative interpretations, statistically controlled. Conclusions: Although baseline cortisol and sex may have impacted the results, the results suggest that stress-induced cortisol is associated with difficulty in non-negative interpretation generation during the cognitive reappraisal process.
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