Personality and emotional processing: A relationship between extraversion and the late positive potential in adolescence
Neuroticism and extraversion are multifaceted affective-laden personality traits that have been associated with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Research and theory have argued that extraversion, and particularly its facet positive emotionality, is specific to MDD, while neuroticism is common across internalizing disorders. Converging evidence has suggested that MDD is associated with reduced engagement with emotional stimuli, but it remains unclear whether either extraversion, neuroticism, or both modulate reactivity to emotional cues. The late positive potential (LPP) is an event-related brain potential that is uniquely suited to assess engagement with emotional stimuli because it reflects sustained attention toward emotional content. The current study examined the LPP in relation to personality traits that may confer risk for depression, by examining the relationship between the LPP and both neuroticism and extraversion in never-depressed adolescent girls. Specifically, 550 girls aged 13.5-15.5 with no lifetime history of depression completed an emotional picture-viewing task and the LPP was measured in response to neutral, pleasant, and unpleasant pictures. Personality traits were gathered via self and informant report. Results indicated that high extraversion was associated with a potentiated LPP to emotional pictures—and this effect was accounted for by positive emotionality in particular. In contrast, there was no association between the LPP and neuroticism or its facets. The present study is one of the first to demonstrate that extraversion is associated with variation in neural indices of emotional picture processing, similar to what has been observed among individuals with depression and at high risk for depression.