How do artistic creative activities regulate our emotions? Validation of the Emotion Regulation Strategies for Artistic Creative Activities Scale (ERS-ACA)

Fancourt, D. and Garnett, C. and Spiro, N. and West, R. and Müllensiefen, D. (2019) How do artistic creative activities regulate our emotions? Validation of the Emotion Regulation Strategies for Artistic Creative Activities Scale (ERS-ACA). PLOS ONE, 14 (2). pp. 1-22. ISSN 1932-6203 (online)

Abstract

There is a rich literature exploring emotional responses to engaging in artistic creative activities such as making music, writing, dancing and crafts. However, it remains unclear how such activities affect our emotions; specifically which mental processes (‘strategies’) are used to regulate our emotional responses. This paper therefore describes the design and validation of a novel instrument measuring types of emotional regulation strategies (ERSs) used when engaging in artistic creative activities: the Emotion Regulation Strategies for Artistic Creative Activities Scale (ERS-ACA). Using data from an initial pilot study (n = 740 adults, 80.4% female, median age 25–34) and a follow-up large internet sample (n = 47,924, 56.7% female, average age 47.3 ± 14.6 years), we followed a theory-driven iterative factor analysis process. Our analyses converged on a final 18-item scale comprising an overall ‘general’ factor of ERSs alongside three subscales: a 7-item factor comprising ‘avoidance strategies’ (such as distraction, suppression and detachment), a 6-item factor comprising ‘approach strategies’ (such as acceptance, reappraisal and problem solving), and a 5-item factor comprising ‘self-development strategies’ (such as enhanced self-identify, improved self-esteem and increased agency). All factors showed strong internal reliability (Cronbach’s alpha: General Factor = 0.93, Factor 1 = 0.9, Factor 2 = 0.88, Factor 3 = 0.88). We confirmed strong convergent and divergent validity, construct validity, consistency of internal reliability and test-retest reliability of the scale in a third study (n = 165, 82.2% female, average age 46.3 ± 12.2 years). In conclusion, artistic creative activities appear to affect our emotions via a number of ERSs that can be broadly classified into three categories: avoidance, approach and self-development. The ERS-ACA scale presented and validated here should support further research into the use of ERSs when engaging in artistic creative activities and enhance our understanding about how these activities affect mental health.

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