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Authors: Zeier, Peter
Title: Emotion Regulation in Detail – Investigating the Predictors of Effective Cognitive Reappraisal
Online publication date: 1-Dec-2021
Language: english
Abstract: Although emotions provide us with vital information, they sometimes also hinder us from achieving important goals, which in turn can result in reduced psychological well-being. Among a set of strategies to regulate such unwanted emotions, cognitive reappraisal, defined as the reinterpretation of an event to alter its emotional impact, received much attention in emotion regulation research. Cognitive reappraisal has been associated with various benefits for mental health and interpersonal functioning. However, this acclaimed emotion regulation strategy also comes with some pitfalls. For example, the frequent but ineffective use of cognitive reappraisal has been connected to more symptoms of depression. Therefore, recent theoretical models mostly dismiss normative concepts of emotion regulation and rather suggest a person- and situation-specific approach. In the light of these contextual influences, I aim at identifying predictors of cognitive reappraisal effectiveness. Specifically, this dissertation investigates whether the generation of multiple categorically different reappraisal thoughts and the experience with stressors influence the effective downregulation of negative emotions. Study #1 introduces and validates a new emotion regulation paradigm – the Script-based Reappraisal Test (SRT) – to overcome methodological shortcomings of previous emotion regulation tasks. Primarily, the SRT provides valuable information on the generation process of cognitive reappraisal, as participants’ reappraisal ideas are recorded. In a first attempt, we investigated the relationship between reappraisal inventiveness, i.e., the general ability to create multiple and differing reappraisals, and reappraisal effectiveness. The results indicated overall successful emotion regulation via cognitive reappraisal but no significant correlation between reappraisal inventiveness and reappraisal effectiveness. Thus, the generation of various reappraisal thoughts may not be adaptive in every situation. Study #2 expands the focus of our research by including person-specific variables. Multiple theories on human resilience suggest that a certain degree of stressor exposure enables individuals to practice and improve emotion regulation strategies. Accordingly, we investigated whether a moderate (compared to a small or high) degree of exposure to daily hassles increases reappraisal inventiveness and reappraisal effectiveness in the SRT. Multiple regression analyses revealed the frequency of daily hassles as a significant and positive predictor of reappraisal effectiveness and reappraisal inventiveness. Contrary to our hypothesis, these relationships were rather linear than quadratic. Although this positive main effect of stressor exposure on cognitive reappraisal abilities may be overestimated due to a homogeneous sample, the results indicate that the harmful effects of stressful situations may be inverted by practicing emotion regulation strategies. Study #3 follows up on the results of study #1 by proposing that the effectiveness of generating various reappraisal thoughts depends on contextual characteristics. Specifically, we hypothesized that individuals who are familiar with emotional situations would unnecessarily use up cognitive resources by generating multiple reappraisal ideas and consequently experience impaired reappraisal effectiveness. In contrast, individuals who exhibit low situational familiarity would profit from a more extensive reappraisal generation by increasing the probability to find an effective reappraisal thought in the first place. Based on theories of emotion regulation flexibility, we introduced the concept of reappraisal variability, defined as the uninstructed generation of categorically different reappraisal thoughts, to adequately investigate this proposed moderation in an adapted version of the SRT. The results revealed the interaction term between reappraisal variability and situational familiarity as significant predictor of reappraisal effectiveness regarding affective valence. As expected, individuals with overall high situational familiarity experienced a detrimental effect of high reappraisal variability. Contrary to our hypothesis, reappraisal variability and reappraisal effectiveness were unrelated for individuals with low situational familiarity. The findings of this dissertation underline the heterogeneity within families of emotion regulation strategies. Regarding cognitive reappraisal, individuals substantially differed with respect to the instructed or spontaneous generation of multiple categorically different reappraisal thoughts. This variation significantly influenced the effective downregulation of negative affect in certain contexts. On a theoretical level, this dissertation thus illustrates the importance of including person-, situation-, and strategy-specific variables in emotion regulation research. On a practical level, the results of this dissertation may support tailored interventions by providing individuals with information on how to select suitable reappraisal thoughts and pay attention to relevant contextual cues. Such theoretical and practical implications may only arise from a detailed investigation of emotion regulation strategies. The methodology and results of this dissertation pave new ways for this field of study.
DDC: 150 Psychologie
150 Psychology
Institution: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Department: FB 02 Sozialwiss., Medien u. Sport
Place: Mainz
Version: Original work
Publication type: Dissertation
License: in Copyright
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Extent: XV, 120 Seiten, Diagramme
Appears in collections:JGU-Publikationen

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