Emotion Regulation of Others and Self

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Posted on Apr 03, 2013 by Peter Totterdell

Our 4-yr project brought together investigators from a number of psychological and health disciplines to study fundamental and applied questions concerning Emotion Regulation of Others and Self (EROS). We used a wide range of methods including: fMRI neuroimaging, experiments, field studies, questionnaires, experience sampling, intervention studies, taxonomic classification, and meta-analysis, and we designed and tested novel techniques and measures. We studied specific relationships (e.g., mother-infants, romantic partners), specific affect-related problems (unipolar depression, bipolar disorder, cyclothymia), specific sports (e.g., runners, cyclists, parachutists, coaches), and specific types of worker (e.g., prison staff, supermarket employees, social workers, emergency service personnel, medical staff, call centre agents, driving instructors).

Some highlights of our research results include:
• Development of theoretical models of emotion self-regulation and interpersonal regulation, and a new resource allocation model of self-control.
• Use of meta-analysis to identify categories of regulation strategy that appear to be more effective in regulating emotions, as well as factors that moderate their effectiveness. In a follow-up study, we found that individuals who used the most effective strategies most frequently had better affect-related outcomes 1-yr later.
• Identification of brain areas involved in i) interpersonal emotion regulation and ii) automatic control of emotion regulation.
• Empirical evidence concerning the links between interpersonal emotion regulation and a variety of outcomes including risk-taking, quality of relationships, job performance, and the well-being of bystanders.
• Discovery that mood appraisal patterns can distinguish between bipolar disorder and unipolar depression, and between symptoms of hypomania and depression. 
• Development of effective clinical interventions for affect-related problems including a protocol that helps individuals with bipolar disorder manage their mood swings as part of their cognitive behavioural therapy, and a new transdiagnostic therapy.
• Demonstration that simple interventions in the form of if-then plans can be used to overcome the effect of mood on risky behaviour, reduce social anxiety, and augment the effectiveness of self-help materials.
• Production of new validated measures of emotion regulation.

EROS has published 80 journal papers so far (54 first-authored by project members)  in a range of psychological fields including: emotion, health, social, applied, sport, occupational, clinical, personality, biological, and assessment. You can find a list of the papers here. This includes papers in high ranking journals such as Emotion, Personality and Social Psychology Review, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and Psychological Bulletin.

We have also published two books and 21 book chapters. One of the books is a popular science book on emotion produced by the whole team, titled “Should I strap a battery to my head? (and other questions about emotion” and edited by Totterdell and Niven). The other is a book aimed at mental health professionals that explains the transdiagnostic therapy developed as part of the grant (“A transdiagnostic approach to CBT using method of levels therapy” by Mansell, Carey, & Tai). We have presented 94 conference papers (including 3 keynote presentations) in 18 countries, and we have organised 6 project-based symposia for conferences. Research collaborations were forged with colleagues from 8 countries. We have also contributed to UK research capacity through the development of 12 early career researchers, 3 attached doctoral studentships, and 15 new doctoral studentships.

As well as having scientific impact, our research has contributed to the treatment of mental health problems, produced interventions that can be used to enhance well-being and performance in applied settings, been put to practical use in sport, and raised public awareness of the relevance of emotion regulation in everyday life. Our research has featured in TV/radio broadcasts, in newspapers, and in professional and lifestyle magazines. We have run workshops for mental health, business, and sport professionals, conducted events for the public (including an interactive exhibition) and user groups, and worked with a range of organisations. Over 75,000 people took part in our research and over 15,000 people from more than 100 countries visited our project website.

Our research is continuing in a number of forms. In relation to mental health, we are now conducting a co-funded randomised controlled trial of the CBT protocol for treating bipolar disorder. Our transdiagnostic therapy is also being evaluated further, including training of more therapists. In relation to performance, we are continuing our large-scale study of competing under pressure in collaboration with the BBC Lab. Other new lines of research are also being pursued.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us conduct the research.

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