Physiological, experiential & cognitive consequences of suppression, reappraisal & acceptance during emotional arousal : a comparative analysis : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
This study investigated the experiential, physiological, and memory effects of three emotion regulation strategies: acceptance, suppression, and reappraisal. Eighty female university students were exposed to a two minute standardised film designed to evoke feelings of sadness, while under instructions to either (a) push away emotions that arose (suppression), (b) view the film in an objective detached way (reappraisal), (c) accept emotions that arose without judgement (acceptance), or (d) simply watch the film (control group). Participants rated the intensity of emotions experienced both prior to and during the film. Heart rate and skin conductance were measured prior to, during, and following the film, and participants' incidental recognition memory (visual and verbal) and subjective confidence in memory were assessed post film. No significant differences were found between the mean scores of the four instructional conditions for any of the main dependent variables (possibilities regarding why this was so are discussed in this thesis). However, analysis of mean and effect size revealed trends that were supportive of several hypotheses. None of the emotion regulation strategies were found to be effective for alleviating either physiological or subjective responses to the film. However, reappraisal and acceptance participants did rate the emotive stimulus as more positive/pleasant than control participants. Clear differences also emerged with respect to incidental verbal recognition memory. Acceptance participants were the only group to achieve higher scores than control participants on this measure. These findings suggest different emotion regulation strategies may have different adaptive consequences depending on their emphasis on emotional control.