Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Increasing Negative Emotions by Reappraisal Enhances Subsequent Cognitive Control: A Combined Behavioral and Electrophysiological Study

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Increasing Negative Emotions by Reappraisal Enhances Subsequent Cognitive Control: A Combined Behavioral and Electrophysiological Study

Article excerpt

To what degree do cognitively based strategies of emotion regulation impact subsequent cognitive control? Here, we investigated this question by interleaving a cognitive task with emotion regulation trials, where regulation occurred through cognitive reappraisal. In addition to obtaining self-reports of emotion regulation, we used the late positive potential (LPP) of the event-related brain potential as an objective index of emotion regulation. On each trial, participants maintained, decreased, or increased their emotional response to an unpleasant picture and then responded to a Stroop stimulus. Results revealed that (1) the magnitude of the LPP was decreased with reappraisal instructions to decrease negative emotion and were enhanced with reappraisal instructions to increase negative emotion; (2) after cognitive reappraisal was used to increase the intensity of negative emotion, RT interference in the subsequent Stroop trial was significantly reduced; and (3) increasing negative emotions by reappraisal also modulated the cognitive control-related sustained potential. These results suggest that increasing negative emotions by cognitive reappraisal heightens cognitive control, which may be sustained for a short time after the regulation event.

The ability to regulate one's own emotions is central to psychological and physical well-being (see Gross, 2007). Although several studies have demonstrated the widespread changes (experiential, physiological, etc.) that accompany the active regulation of emotion (for reviews, see Gross & Thompson, 2007; Ochsner & Gross, 2005), fewer have spoken directly to how such emotion regulation impacts the processing of subsequent or concurrent tasks. As Zelazo and Cunningham (2007) have noted, "one strives to regulate one's emotion (e.g., up-regulation or down-regulation) in order to foster the fulfillment of some other goal about which one cares" (p. 147). Therefore, it is important to examine what consequences emotion regulation has for subsequent cognitive control. In the present study, we ask, Does regulating emotion drain or prime the cognitive control resources necessary for subsequent attentionally demanding tasks?

There is reason to suggest that the type of regulation one employs largely determines whether cognitive resources are drained or primed. Researchers agree that not all emotion regulation strategies are equal. For example, people can rely on either behavioral or cognitive strategies to regulate their emotions (Gross & Thompson, 2007). Behavioral emotion regulation involves the manipulation of outward expressions of emotion, either to suppress or to enhance the intensity of expression. Cognitive reappraisal, on the other hand, involves changing the way that one thinks about an emotion-evoking event in order to increase or decrease one's affective response.

Nearly all studies showing that emotion regulation drains cognitive resources have involved behavioral emotion regulation. The first clues about the cognitive effects of behavioral emotion regulation came from studies showing impaired memory for emotional films and pictures presented under behavioral suppression instructions (Richards & Gross, 1999, 2000, 2006). Similarly, Bonanno, Papa, Lalande, Westphal, and Coifman (2004) showed impaired memory performance for emotional pictures presented during behavioral suppression and exaggeration. Most relevant to the present investigation, at least three studies have shown that behavioral emotion regulation drained available resources for subsequent cognitive processing. Schmeichel (2007) found that participants who exaggerated their outward, behavioral emotional expressions to an unpleasant film subsequently exhibited significantly reduced working memory span. Similarly, Shamosh and Gray (2007) reported that suppressing outward, behavioral emotional responses to an unpleasant film increased subsequent cognitive interference effects on a Stroop-like task. …

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