Cognitive flexibility is frequently linked to resilience because of its important contribution to stress regulation. In this context, particularly affective flexibility, defined as the ability to flexibly attend and disengage from affective information, may play a significant role. In the present study, the relationship of cognitive and affective flexibility and resilience was examined in 100 healthy participants. Resilience was measured with three self-report questionnaires, two defining resilience as a personality trait and one focusing on resilience as an outcome in the sense of stress coping abilities. Cognitive and affective flexibility were assessed in two experimental task switching paradigms with non-affective and affective materials and tasks, respectively. The cognitive flexibility paradigm additionally included measures of cognitive stability and spontaneous switching in ambiguous situations. In the affective flexibility paradigm, we explicitly considered the affective valence of the stimuli. Response time switch costs in the affective flexibility paradigm were significantly correlated to all three measures of resilience. The correlation was not specific for particular valences of the stimuli before or during switching. For cognitive (non-affective) flexibility, a significant correlation of response time switch costs was found with only one resilience measure. A regression analysis including both affective and cognitive switch costs as predictors of resilience indicated that only affective, but not cognitive switch costs, explained unique variance components. Furthermore, the experimental measures of cognitive stability and the rate of spontaneous switching in ambiguous situations did not correlate with resilience scores. These findings suggest that specifically the efficiency of flexibly switching between affective and non-affective information is related to resilience.
Rademacher, L., Kraft, D., Eckart, C. et al. Individual differences in resilience to stress are associated with affective flexibility. Psychological Research (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-022-01779-4