Participants who are instructed to use reappraisal to downregulate negative emotion show decreased amygdala responses and increased prefrontal responses. However, it is not known whether individual differences in the tendency to use reappraisal manifests in similar neural responses when individuals are spontaneously confronted with negative situations. Such spontaneous emotion regulation might play an important role in normal and pathological responses to the emotional challenges of everyday life.
Fifty-six healthy women completed a blood oxygenation-level dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging challenge paradigm involving the perceptual processing of emotionally negative facial expressions. Participants also completed measures of typical emotion regulation use, trait anxiety, and neuroticism.
Greater use of reappraisal in everyday life was related to decreased amygdala activity and increased prefrontal and parietal activity during the processing of negative emotional facial expressions. These associations were not attributable to variation in trait anxiety, neuroticism, or the use of another common form of emotion regulation, namely suppression.
These findings suggest that, like instructed reappraisal, individual differences in reappraisal use are associated with decreased activation in ventral emotion generative regions and increased activation in prefrontal control regions in response to negative stimuli. Such individual differences in emotion regulation might predict successful coping with emotional challenges as well as the onset of affective disorders.
Amygdala; cognitive control; emotion; fMRI; regulation; reappraisal
A functional polymorphism within the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has been reported to modulate emotionality and risk for affective disorders. The short (S) allele has less functional efficacy than the long (L) allele and has been associated with enhanced emotional reactivity. One possible contributing factor to the high emotionality in S carriers may be inefficient use of cognitive strategies such as reappraisal to regulate emotional responses. The aim of the present study was to test whether the 5-HTTLPR genotype modulates the neural correlates of emotion regulation. To determine neural differences between S and L allele carriers during reappraisal of negative emotions, 15 homozygous S (S′/S′) and 15 homozygous L (L′/L′) carriers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), while performing an instructed emotion regulation task including downregulation, upregulation and passive viewing of negative emotional pictures. Compared to L′/L′ allele carriers, subjects who carry the S′/S′ allele responded with lower posterior insula and prefrontal brain activation during passive perception of negative emotional information but showed greater prefrontal activation and anterior insula activation during down- and upregulation of negative emotional responses. The current results support and extend previous findings of enhanced emotionality in S carriers by providing additional evidence of 5-HTTLPR modulation of volitional emotion regulation.
cognitive reappraisal; emotion regulation; fMRI; serotonin transporter gene; 5-HTTLPR
Emotion regulation is commonly characterized as involving conscious and intentional attempts to change felt emotions, such as, for example, through reappraisal whereby one intentionally decreases the intensity of one's emotional response to a particular stimulus or situation by reinterpreting it in a less threatening way. However, there is growing evidence and appreciation that some types of emotion regulation are unintentional or incidental, meaning that affective modulation is a consequence but not an explicit goal. For example, affect labeling involves simply verbally labeling the emotional content of an external stimulus or one's own affective responses without an intentional goal of altering emotional responses, yet has been associated with reduced affective responses at the neural and experiential levels. Although both intentional and incidental emotional regulation strategies have been associated with diminished limbic responses and self-reported distress, little previous research has directly compared their underlying neural mechanisms. In this study, we examined the extent to which incidental and intentional emotion regulation, namely, affect labeling and reappraisal, produced common and divergent neural and self-report responses to aversive images relative to an observe-only control condition in a sample of healthy older adults (N = 39). Affect labeling and reappraisal produced common activations in several prefrontal regulatory regions, with affect labeling producing stronger responses in direct comparisons. Affect labeling and reappraisal were also associated with similar decreases in amygdala activity. Finally, affect labeling and reappraisal were associated with correlated reductions in self-reported distress. Together these results point to common neurocognitive mechanisms involved in affect labeling and reappraisal, supporting the idea that intentional and incidental emotion regulation may utilize overlapping neural processes.
affect labeling; reappraisal; emotion regulation; fMRI; amygdala; prefrontal cortex
A common emotion regulation strategy, cognitive reappraisal, involves altering the meaning of a situation so that the emotional response to the situation is changed. Most research on reappraisal has focused on down-regulation of negative emotion; few studies exist on reappraisal of positive affect, and even fewer have examined the cognitive reappraisal of craving for energy-dense (e.g., “junk”) foods. In the present study we examined this form of cognitive reappraisal using a new adaptation of a classic emotion regulation task. Subjects chose idiosyncratic categories of craved (and not craved) energy-dense foods as stimuli, and were instructed either to look at the stimulus or to reappraise it in a way that reduced desire to eat the depicted food using a strategy that could be used in the real world. A repeated-measures ANOVA and follow-up tests revealed that reappraisal significantly reduced self-reported desirability of both Craved and Not Craved foods, but for a greater degree in Craved foods. In addition, the degree to which subjects decreased their desire to consume Craved foods positively correlated with the cognitive restraint subscale of the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, a measure of self-control of eating in everyday life.
Craving; Regulation; Cognitive reappraisal; Food; Eating
Previous studies have reported the effect of emotion regulation (ER) strategies on both individual and social decision-making, however, the effect of regulation on socially driven emotions independent of decisions is still unclear. In the present study, we investigated the neural effects of using reappraisal to both up- and down-regulate socially driven emotions. Participants played the Dictator Game (DG) in the role of recipient while undergoing fMRI, and concurrently applied the strategies of either up-regulation (reappraising the proposer's intentions as more negative), down-regulation (reappraising the proposer's intentions as less negative), as well as a baseline “look” condition. Results showed that regions responding to the implementation of reappraisal (effect of strategy, that is, “regulating regions”) were the inferior and middle frontal gyrus, temporo parietal junction and insula bilaterally. Importantly, the middle frontal gyrus activation correlated with the frequency of regulatory strategies in daily life, with the insula activation correlating with the perceived ability to reappraise the emotions elicited by the social situation. Regions regulated by reappraisal (effect of regulation, that is, “regulated regions”) were the striatum, the posterior cingulate and the insula, showing increased activation for the up-regulation and reduced activation for down-regulation, both compared to the baseline condition. When analyzing the separate effects of partners' behavior, selfish behavior produced an activation of the insula, not observed when subjects were treated altruistically. Here we show for the first time that interpersonal ER strategies can strongly affect neural responses when experiencing socially driven emotions. Clinical implications of these findings are also discussed to understand how the way we interpret others' intentions may affect the way we emotionally react.
interpersonal emotion regulation; decision-making; social interactions; mentalizing
This study explored how the effectiveness of specific emotion regulation strategies might be influenced by aging and by time of day, given that in older age the circadian peak in cognitive performance is earlier in the day. We compared the benefit gained by 40 older (60–78 years; 20 women) and 40 younger (18–30 years; 20 women) adults during either on-peak or off-peak circadian times on 2 specific types of cognitive emotion regulation strategies: distraction and reappraisal. Participants rated their negative emotional responses to negative and neutral images under 3 conditions: a baseline nonregulation condition, a distraction condition involving a working memory task, and a reappraisal condition that involved reinterpreting the situation displayed using specific preselected strategies. First, as hypothesized, there was a crossover interaction such that participants in each age group reported more negative reactivity at their off-peak time of day. Second, a double dissociation was observed as circadian rhythms affected only negative reactivity—with reactivity highest at off-peak times—and aging diminished reappraisal but not distraction ability or reactivity. These findings add to growing evidence that understanding the effects of aging on emotion and emotion regulation depends on taking both time of day and type of regulatory strategy into account.
emotional reactivity; emotion regulation; cognitive reappraisal; aging; circadian rhythms
Rationale and Objective
Drug cues can induce craving for drugs of abuse. Dysfunctional regulation of emotion and motivation regarding rewarding objects appears to be an integral part of addiction. It has been found that cognitive strategies decreased the intensity of craving in addicts. Reappraisal strategy is a type of cognitive strategy that requires participants to reinterpret the meaning of an emotional situation. In addition, studies have found that activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) is associated with the selection and application of cognitive reappraisal. In present study, we sought to determine whether such cognitive regulation engages the dACC and improves inhibition of craving in smokers.
Sixteen smokers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of a cigarette reward-conditioning procedure with cognitive reappraisal. We focused our analyses on the dACC as a key structure of cognitive control of craving. Cue induced craving under different conditions was obtained. Correlational analysis between the functional response in the dACC and the subjective craving was performed.
We found that using a cognitive reappraisal was successful in decreasing the conditioned craving. Right dACC (BA 24/32) engaged in the cognitive reappraisal. In addition, the individual’s subjective craving was negatively correlated with the right dACC activation.
These findings suggest that the dACC are important substrates of Inhibition of cue induced craving in smokers. Cognitive regulation by cognitive reappraisal may help addicted individuals avoid the anticipated situations where they are exposed to conditioned cues.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by distorted negative self-beliefs (NSBs) which are thought to enhance emotional reactivity, interfere with emotion regulation, and undermine social functioning. Cognitive reappraisal is a type of emotion regulation used to alter NSBs, with the goal of modulating emotional reactivity. Despite its relevance, little is known about the neural bases and temporal features of cognitive reappraisal in patients with SAD.
Twenty-seven patients with SAD and 27 healthy controls (HC) were trained to react and to implement cognitive reappraisal in order to down-regulate negative emotional reactivity to NSBs while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging and providing ratings of negative emotion experience.
Behaviorally, compared with HC, patients with SAD reported greater negative emotion both while reacting to and reappraising NSBs. However, when cued, participants in both groups were able to use cognitive reappraisal to decrease emotion. Neurally, reacting to NSBs resulted in early amygdala response in both groups. Reappraising NSBs resulted in greater early cognitive control, language, and visual processing in HC, but greater late cognitive control, visceral, and visual processing in patients with SAD. Functional connectivity analysis during reappraisal identified more regulatory regions inversely related to left amygdala in HCs than in patients with SAD. Reappraisal-related brain regions that differentiated patients and controls were associated with negative emotion ratings and cognitive reappraisal self-efficacy.
Findings regarding cognitive reappraisal suggest neural timing, connectivity, and brain-behavioral associations specific to patients with SAD, and elucidate neural mechanisms that might serve as biomarkers of interventions for SAD.
brain; emotion; emotion regulation; social anxiety; fMRI; neuroimaging
Emotions can occur during an emotion-eliciting event, but they can also arise when anticipating the event. We used pupillary responses, as a measure of effortful cognitive processing, to test whether the anticipation of an emotional stimulus (positive and negative) influences the subsequent online processing of that emotional stimulus. Moreover, we tested whether individual differences in the habitual use of emotion regulation strategies are associated with pupillary responses during the anticipation and/or online processing of this emotional stimulus. Our results show that, both for positive and negative stimuli, pupillary diameter during the anticipation of emotion-eliciting events is inversely and strongly correlated to pupillary responses during the emotional image presentation. The variance in this temporal interplay between anticipation and online processing was related to individual differences in emotion regulation. Specifically, the results show that high reappraisal scores are related to larger pupil diameter during the anticipation which is related to smaller pupillary responses during the online processing of emotion-eliciting events. The habitual use of expressive suppression was not associated to pupillary responses in the anticipation and subsequent online processing of emotional stimuli. Taken together, the current data suggest (most strongly for individuals scoring high on the habitual use of reappraisal) that larger pupillary responses during the anticipation of an emotional stimulus are indicative of a sustained attentional set activation to prepare for an upcoming emotional stimulus, which subsequently directs a reduced need to cognitively process that emotional event. Hence, because the habitual use of reappraisal is known to have a positive influence on emotional well-being, the interplay between anticipation and online processing of emotional stimuli might be a significant marker of this well-being.
pupil diameter; emotion anticipation; online emotional processing; cognitive reappraisal
We used fMRI to investigate the neural processes engaged as individuals down- and up-regulated the emotions associated with negative autobiographical memories (AMs) using cognitive reappraisal strategies. Our analyses examined neural activity during 3 separate phases, as participants: (a) viewed a reappraisal instruction (i.e., Decrease, Increase, Maintain), (b) searched for an AM referenced by a self-generated cue, and (c) elaborated upon the details of the AM being held in mind. Decreasing emotional intensity primarily engaged activity in regions previously implicated in cognitive control (e.g., dorsal and ventral lateral prefrontal cortex), emotion generation and processing (e.g., amygdala, insula), and visual imagery (e.g., precuneus) as participants searched for and retrieved events. In contrast, increasing emotional intensity engaged similar regions during the instruction phase (i.e., before a memory cue was presented) and again as individuals later elaborated upon the details of the events they had recalled. These findings confirm that reappraisal can modulate neural activity during the recall of personally-relevant events, though the time course of this modulation appears to depend on whether individuals are attempting to down- or up-regulate their emotions.
Extinction learning is proposed to be one key mechanism of action underlying exposure-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in specific phobia. Beyond that, cognitive reappraisal, one important strategy to regulate negative emotions, is a crucial component of CBT interventions, but has been disregarded in previous studies investigating neural change processes in specific phobia. The aim of this study was to investigate the association of individual differences in habitual/dispositional cognitive reappraisal usage and the time course of brain activation during phobic stimulation in specific phobia.
Dental phobic patients and healthy control subjects participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study whilst being confronted with phobic, disgust, fear and neutral pictures. Individual differences in cognitive reappraisal usage were assessed via a self-report questionnaire and correlated with activation decreases over the course of time.
Phobic individuals with higher dispositional cognitive reappraisal scores showed a more pronounced activation decline in the right dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) which might be associated with a diminution of explicit cognitive emotion regulation over the course of time. Less decrease of activation in the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC) over time in subjects with higher cognitive reappraisal scores might be related to a stronger automatic regulation of emotions or even emotional relearning. Additionally, phobic subjects compared with healthy controls showed a stronger habituation of the left dmPFC over the course of symptom provocation.
The results of this study show for the first time that individual differences in cognitive reappraisal usage are associated with the time course of brain activation during symptom provocation in specific phobia. Additionally, the present study gives first indications for the importance of considering individual differences in cognitive reappraisal usage in the treatment of specific phobia.
Specific phobia; Emotion regulation; Cognitive reappraisal; vmPFC; Insula; Habituation; Extinction; fMRI; CBT
Emotion regulation strategies are thought to differ in when and how they influence the emotion-generative process. However, no study to date has directly probed the neural bases of two contrasting (e.g., cognitive versus behavioral) emotion regulation strategies. This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine cognitive reappraisal (a cognitive strategy thought to have its impact early in the emotion-generative process) and expressive-suppression (a behavioral strategy thought to have its impact later in the emotion-generative process).
Seventeen women viewed 15s neutral and negative-emotion eliciting films under four conditions - watch neutral, watch negative, reappraise negative, and suppress negative - while providing emotion experience ratings and having their facial expressions videotaped.
Reappraisal resulted in early (0−4.5s) prefrontal cortical (PFC) responses, decreased negative emotion experience, and decreased amygdala and insular responses. Suppression produced late (10.5−15s) PFC responses, decreased negative emotion behavior and experience, but increased amygdala and insula responses.
These findings demonstrate the differential efficacy of reappraisal and suppression on emotional experience, facial behavior, and neural response, and highlight intriguing differences in the temporal dynamics of these two emotion regulation strategies.
Emotion; emotion regulation; cognitive control; insula; amygdala; fMRI
Cognitive reappraisal, or changing one’s interpretation of an event in order to alter the emotional response to it, is thought to be a healthy and effective emotion regulation strategy. Although researchers recognize several distinct varieties of reappraisal, few studies have explicitly compared the effects of multiple reappraisal strategies on emotional responding. The present study compares the effects of detached and positive reappraisal on thought content, subjective emotional experience, physiological reactivity, and facial expressions of emotion while viewing film clips evoking sadness and disgust. While both forms of reappraisal reduced overall emotional responding to unpleasant stimuli, the effects of detached reappraisal were stronger in this regard, and positive reappraisal was more likely to maintain subjective experience and facial expression of stimulus-appropriate positive emotions. The two reappraisal strategies also produced somewhat different profiles of physiological responding. Differences between detached and positive reappraisal with respect to subjective experience and facial expression were more pronounced among men than women; the reverse was true for differences with respect to physiological responding. Beyond these effects on individual emotion response systems, detached and positive reappraisal also had somewhat different effects on coherence in change across response systems. Implications for our understanding of emotion regulation processes, and for emotion theory more broadly, are discussed.
Emotion; Emotion Regulation; Reappraisal; Psychophysiology; Non-Verbal Expression
The success of social insects can be in part attributed to their division of labor, which has been explained by a response threshold model. This model posits that individuals differ in their response thresholds to task-associated stimuli, so that individuals with lower thresholds specialize in this task. This model is at odds with findings on honeybee behavior as nectar and pollen foragers exhibit different responsiveness to sucrose, with nectar foragers having higher response thresholds to sucrose concentration. Moreover, it has been suggested that sucrose responsiveness correlates with responsiveness to most if not all other stimuli. If this is the case, explaining task specialization and the origins of division of labor on the basis of differences in response thresholds is difficult.
To compare responsiveness to stimuli presenting clear-cut differences in hedonic value and behavioral contexts, we measured appetitive and aversive responsiveness in the same bees in the laboratory. We quantified proboscis extension responses to increasing sucrose concentrations and sting extension responses to electric shocks of increasing voltage. We analyzed the relationship between aversive responsiveness and aversive olfactory conditioning of the sting extension reflex, and determined how this relationship relates to division of labor.
Sucrose and shock responsiveness measured in the same bees did not correlate, thus suggesting that they correspond to independent behavioral syndromes, a foraging and a defensive one. Bees which were more responsive to shock learned and memorized better aversive associations. Finally, guards were less responsive than nectar foragers to electric shocks, exhibiting higher tolerance to low voltage shocks. Consequently, foragers, which are more sensitive, were the ones learning and memorizing better in aversive conditioning.
Our results constitute the first integrative study on how aversive responsiveness affects learning, memory and social organization in honeybees. We suggest that parallel behavioral modules (e.g. appetitive, aversive) coexist within each individual bee and determine its tendency to adopt a given task. This conclusion, which is at odds with a simple threshold model, should open new opportunities for exploring the division of labor in social insects.
Emotion regulation strategies can alter behavioral and physiological responses to emotional stimuli and the neural correlates of those responses in regions such as the amygdala or striatum. The current study investigates the brain systems engaged when using an emotion regulation technique during financial decisions. In decision making, regulating emotion with reappraisal-focused strategies that encourage taking a different perspective has been shown to reduce loss aversion as observed both in choices and in the relative arousal responses to actual loss and gain outcomes. In the current study, we find using fMRI that behavioral loss aversion correlates with amygdala activity in response to losses relative to gains. Success in regulating loss aversion also correlates with the reduction in amygdala responses to losses but not to gains. Furthermore, across both decisions and outcomes, we find the reappraisal strategy increases baseline activity in dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the striatum. The similarity of the neural circuitry observed to that seen in emotion regulation, despite divergent tasks, serves as further evidence for a role of emotion in decision making, and for the power of reappraisal to change assessments of value and thereby choices.
emotion; reappraisal; emotion regulation; decision making; loss aversion
The regulation of negative emotion through reappraisal has been shown to induce increased prefrontal activity and decreased amygdala activity. Individual differences in dispositional mindfulness reflect differences in typical recognition, detachment and regulation of current experience, thought to also operate as top–down control mechanism. We sought to investigate whether such individual differences would be associated with brain activity elicited during reappraisal of negative emotion. Eighteen healthy participants completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging task that involved attending to or reappraising negative stimuli, and provided emotion experience ratings after each trial. Dispositional mindfulness was assessed with a self-report questionnaire. Reappraisal induced activity in a brain network involving predominantly dorsal portions of the prefrontal cortex, replicating previous studies. A voxelwise regression analysis showed that individual differences in the tendency to be mindful predicted activity in neural regions underlying reappraisal, with dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activation increasing with more mindfulness traits. Notably, this prefrontal activation was inversely correlated with the amygdala response to negative scenes, further supporting its role in down-regulating emotion-generation regions. These findings suggest that individual differences in dispositional mindfulness, which reflect the tendency to recognize and regulate current states, may modulate activity in neural systems involved in the effective cognitive control of negative emotion.
emotion regulation; fMRI; individual differences; mindfulness; prefrontal cortex
Mastery of cognitive emotion regulation strategies is an important developmental task. This paper focuses on two strategies that occur from preschool age onwards (Stegge and Meerum Terwogt, 2007): reappraisal and response suppression. Parental socialization of these strategies was investigated in a sample of N = 219 parents and their children. Informed by the tripartite model of family impact on children's emotion regulation, direct relations of emotion socialization components (modeling and reactions to the child's negative emotions) and indirect relations of parental emotion-related beliefs (such as parental emotion regulation self-efficacy) were examined. Data on emotion socialization components and parental beliefs on emotion regulation were collected via self-report. Data on children's emotion regulation strategies were collected via parent report. Findings showed direct effects of parental modeling and parenting practices on children's emotion regulation strategies, with distinct socialization paths for reappraisal and response suppression. An indirect effect of parental emotion regulation self-efficacy on children's reappraisal was found. These associations were not moderated by parent sex. Findings highlight the importance of both socialization components and parental emotion-related beliefs for the socialization of cognitive emotion regulation strategies and suggest a domain-specific approach to the socialization of emotion regulation strategies.
emotion socialization; parenting; cognitive emotion regulation strategies; reappraisal; response suppression
To examine the effects of different emotion regulation strategies on acoustic eye-blink startle, 65 participants viewed positive, neutral, and negative pictures and were instructed to suppress, reappraise, or accept their emotional responses to these pictures using a within-group experimental design with separate blocks of pictures for each strategy. Instructions to suppress the emotional response led to an attenuation of the eye-blink startle magnitude, in comparison with instructions to reappraise or accept. Reappraisal and acceptance instructions did not differ from one another in their effect on startle. These results are discussed within the context of the existing empirical literature on emotion regulation.
emotion regulation; reappraisal; acceptance; suppression; eye-blink startle
Neuroimaging has demonstrated that voluntary emotion regulation is effective in reducing amygdala activation to aversive stimuli during regulation. However, to date little is known about the sustainability of these neural effects once active emotion regulation has been terminated.
We addressed this issue by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in healthy female subjects. We performed an active emotion regulation task using aversive visual scenes (task 1) and a subsequent passive viewing task using the same stimuli (task 2). Here we demonstrate not only a significantly reduced amygdala activation during active regulation but also a sustained regulation effect on the amygdala in the subsequent passive viewing task. This effect was related to an immediate increase of amygdala signal in task 1 once active emotion regulation has been terminated: The larger this peak postregulation signal in the amygdala in task 1, the smaller the sustained regulation effect in task 2.
In summary, we found clear evidence that effects of voluntary emotion regulation extend beyond the period of active regulation. These findings are of importance for the understanding of emotion regulation in general, for disorders of emotion regulation and for psychotherapeutic interventions.
It has been suggested that reappraisal strategies are more effective than suppression strategies for regulating emotions. Recently, proponents of the acceptance-based behavior therapy movement have further emphasized the importance of acceptance-based emotion regulation techniques. In order to directly compare these different emotion regulation strategies, 202 volunteers were asked to give an impromptu speech in front of a video camera. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The Reappraisal group was instructed to regulate their anxious arousal by reappraising the situation; the Suppression group was asked to suppress their anxious behaviors; and the Acceptance group was instructed to accept their anxiety. As expected, the Suppression group showed a greater increase in heart rate from baseline than the Reappraisal and Acceptance groups. Moreover, the Suppression group reported more anxiety than the Reappraisal group. However, the Acceptance and Suppression groups did not differ in their subjective anxiety response. These results suggest that both reappraising and accepting anxiety is more effective for moderating the physiological arousal than suppressing anxiety. However, reappraising is more effective for moderating the subjective feeling of anxiety than attempts to suppress or accept it.
Emotion regulation; cognitive behavioral therapy; acceptance and commitment therapy; CBT; ACT; anxiety
Emotion regulation includes multiple strategies that rely upon different underlying abilities, and that may be affected differently by aging. We assessed young, middle-aged, and older adults' ability to implement three emotion regulation strategies (detached reappraisal, positive reappraisal, and behavior suppression) in a laboratory setting, using standardized emotional stimuli and a multi-method approach to assessing regulation success. Results revealed age-related decline in ability to implement detached reappraisal, enhancement of ability to implement positive reappraisal, and maintenance of ability to implement behavior suppression. We discuss these findings in terms of their implications for emotion theory and for promoting successful aging.
Aging; Emotion; Emotion Regulation; Psychophysiology; Reappraisal
Although multiple neuroimaging studies suggest that affect labeling (i.e., putting feelings into words) can dampen affect-related responses in the amygdala, the consequences of affect labeling have not been examined in other channels of emotional responding. We conducted four studies examining the effect of affect labeling on self-reported emotional experience. In study one, self-reported distress was lower during affect labeling, compared to passive watching, of negative emotional pictures. Studies two and three added reappraisal and distraction conditions, respectively. Affect labeling showed similar effects on self-reported distress as both of these intentional emotion regulation strategies. In each of the first three studies, however, participant predictions about the effects of affect labeling suggest that unlike reappraisal and distraction, people do not believe affect labeling to be an effective emotion regulation strategy. Even after having the experience of affect labels leading to lower distress, participants still predicted that affect labeling would increase distress in the future. Thus, affect labeling is best described as an incidental emotion regulation process. Finally, study four employed positive emotional pictures and here, affect labeling was associated with diminished self-reported pleasure, relative to passive watching. This suggests that affect labeling tends to dampen affective responses in general, rather than specifically alleviating negative affect.
emotion; emotion regulation; emotional experience
Electrocortical activity, typically used to track the effects of cognitive reappraisal on the processing of emotional stimuli, has not been used to index PFC-mediated regulatory mechanisms responsible for these effects. In the current study, we examined the novel possibility that induced frontal alpha (i.e., 8 – 13 Hz), shown to reflect the inhibition and disengagement of task-relevant cortical regions, may be quantified to explore cortical activation that is specifically enhanced during cognitive reappraisal. For this purpose, 44 participants viewed unpleasant and neutral pictures followed by auditory instructions to either continue viewing the picture or reduce emotional response to the picture by making the picture seem less emotional (i.e., cognitive reappraisal). In line with previous work, unpleasant compared to neutral pictures elicited a larger late positive potential (LPP). Also corroborating previous work, the mid-latency LPP was reduced when pictures were cognitively reappraised. However, the current study showed for the first time that whereas unpleasant pictures elicited higher frontal alpha power than the neutral pictures bilaterally, frontal alpha power was reduced (indicative of more activation and cognitive control) during cognitive reappraisal of both picture types over the left hemisphere. Taken together, the LPP and event-related induced frontal alpha findings contribute unique information about distinct neural substrates and cognitive processes underlying reappraisal.
Our brain is unable to fully process all the sensory signals we encounter. Attention is the process that helps selecting input from all available information for detailed processing and it is largely influenced by the affective value of the stimuli. This study examined if attentional bias toward emotional stimuli can be modulated by cognitively changing their emotional value. Participants were presented with negative and neutral images from four different scene-categories depicting humans (“Reading”, “Working”, “Crying” and “Violence”). Using cognitive reappraisal subjects decreased and increased the negativity of one negative (e.g., “Crying”) and one neutral (e.g., “Reading”) category respectively, whereas they only had to watch the other two categories (e.g., “Working” and “Violence”) without changing their feelings. Subsequently, subjects performed the attentional blink paradigm. Two targets were embedded in a stream of distractors, with the previously seen human pictures serving as the first target (T1) and rotated landmark/landscape images as the second (T2). Subjects then reported T1 visibility and the orientation of T2. We investigated if the detection accuracy of T2 is influenced by the change of the emotional value of T1 due to the reappraisal manipulation. Indeed, T2 detection rate was higher when T2 was preceded by a negative image that was only viewed compared to negative images that were reappraised to be neutral. Thus, more resources were captured by images that have been reappraised before, i.e., their negativity has been reduced. This modulatory effect of reappraisal on attention was not found for neutral images. Possibly upon re-exposure to negative stimuli subjects had to recall the previously performed affective change. In this case resources may be allocated to maintain the reappraised value and therefore hinder the detection of a temporally close target. Complimentary self-reported ratings support the reappraisal manipulation of negative images.
affect; attentional blink; emotion; regulation; top-down
People often encounter difficulty when making conscious attempts to regulate their emotions. We propose that nonconscious self-regulatory processes may be of help in these difficult circumstances, because nonconscious processes are not subject to the same set of limitations as are conscious processes. Two experiments examined the effects of nonconsciously operating goals on people's emotion-regulatory success. In Experiment 1, participants engaged in an anxiety-eliciting task who had a reappraisal emotion-control goal primed and operating nonconsciously achieved the same decrease in physiological reactivity as those explicitly instructed to reappraise, compared to a control group. In Experiment 2, the effect of nonconscious reappraisal priming on physiological reactivity was shown to be most pronounced for those who do not habitually use reappraisal strategies. The findings highlight the potential importance of nonconscious goals for facilitating emotional control in complex real-world environments, and have implications for contemporary models of emotion-regulation.
nonconscious goals; emotion regulation; reappraisal; dual-process