Does Emotion Regulation Flexibility Work? Investigating the Effectiveness of Regulatory Selection Flexibility in Managing Negative Affect

Philippa Specker*, Gal Sheppes, Angela Nickerson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Regulatory selection flexibility—the ability to flexibly choose emotion regulation strategies that are appropriate to dynamic contextual demands—has been theorized as a critical component of adaptive emotional functioning. Despite this, little research has investigated whether individual differences in regulatory selection flexibility influence real-time emotional experiences. The current study aimed to test the effectiveness of regulatory selection flexibility in reducing negative affect while exposed to emotion-eliciting stimuli. Using a behavioral regulatory selection task, participants viewed negative images that differed in emotional intensity and selected between engagement cognitive change (reappraisal) or attentional disengagement (distraction) strategies to manage their emotional responses. Negative affect was rated immediately before and after the regulatory period, to index emotional experience. Greater regulatory selection flexibility was associated with greater reductions in negative affect. Our findings offer preliminary evidence for the immediate psychological benefit of regulatory selection flexibility and highlight some promising avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-569
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume15
Issue number5
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
University of New South Wales Scientia
National Health and Medical Research Council1037091
National Health and Medical Research Council
Israel Science Foundation1130/16
Israel Science Foundation

    Keywords

    • distraction
    • emotion regulation
    • flexibility
    • reappraisal
    • regulatory selection

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