Emotion Regulation of Others and Self

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Automaticity

Background

Strategies for emotion self-regulation can be distinguished according to whether they are automatic  or controlled.
• Automatic regulation means that “the values of affect-related variables are registered without awareness and adjustments are made at a nonconscious level” (Parkinson & Totterdell, 1999, p. 278).
• Controlled regulation means that “people exert a deliberate and intentional influence on their moods and emotions using strategies which are implemented or terminated as a function of consciously monitored changes in affect” (Parkinson & Totterdell, 1999, p. 278).

Automatic regulation may confer a number of advantages over more controlled regulation. Specifically, we propose that automatic regulation will:
a) not deplete limited self-regulatory resources, and
b) achieve the emotion regulation goal and prevent ‘rebound’ effects (whereby the emotion returns following effortful suppression).

Study Objectives

The four main studies within this project will investigate:

Study 1: Regulatory resources during emotion regulation. The first study will examine self-regulatory resource expenditure during emotion-regulation tasks by measuring changes in performance on secondary regulatory tasks (e.g., grip duration) and by using new physiological measures of regulatory effort.

Study 2: Implementation intentions. In this study we will investigate whether people can use implementation intentions (Gollwitzer, 1999) to strategically automatise emotion regulation. Implementation intentions are specific if-then plans that specify both a good opportunity to achieve a goal and a goal-directed response to that opportunity. While considerable evidence suggests that if-then planning effectively promotes goal attainment (Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006) and relatively automatic responses (Webb & Sheeran, 2003, 2007), little research to date has investigated the efficacy of implementation intentions for emotion regulation.

Study 3: Neurophysiology of controlled and automatic regulation. Based on research that distinguishes the brain areas involved in willed versus stimulus driven action (e.g., Hunter, Farrow, Papadakis et al., 2003), we predict that the involvement of the pre-frontal cortex will differ for controlled and automatic emotion regulation. Such a finding would provide a substantive demonstration of the proposed automaticity of responses specified in implementation intentions.

Study 4: Contagion of emotion-regulation goals. Aarts, Gollwitzer, and Hassin (2004) found that individuals automatically adopt and pursue goals that are implied by others’ behaviour. In short, behavioural goals appear to be ‘contagious’. This study investigates the possibility that emotion-regulation goals might also be contagious.

Outputs and Staff Profiles

Example Publications

Using implementation intentions to overcome the effect of mood on risky behavior. British Journal of Social Psychology.
Dealing with feeling: A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of strategies. Psychological Bulletin.

Research Staff on this Project

Paschal Sheeran
Thomas Webb
Eleanor Miles