Being able to resist temptation at a young age is crucial for successful functioning yet it can be challenging. According to the Selection, Optimization, and Compensation with Emotion Regulation (SOC-ER) framework, one central element of successful functioning is selection which involves choosing among regulatory options whose resource requirements fits with the amount of available resources an individual possesses. Although conceptually important, direct empirical evidence is lacking. Accordingly, the present study utilised performance based measures to examine the interactive effect of regulatory selection to resist temptation, and individual differences in executive resources, on functioning in young children. Specifically, 39 first grade children that varied in executive resources (working memory capacity, WMC), selected between two major regulatory strategies (reappraisal and distraction) to resist temptation, that varied in their resource demands, and were evaluated on successful functioning (via questionnaires completed by parents, that assess daily-life behaviours requiring executive functioning). Supporting SOC-ER predictions, we found that among children with low (but not high) WMC, choosing the less effortful distraction regulatory strategy was associated with adaptive functioning. Additionally, regulatory choice preferences previously obtained with adults were extended to children. Broad implications are discussed.
- Emotion regulation choice
- working memory capacity