The Consequences of Effortful Emotion Regulation When Processing Distressing Material: A Comparison of Suppression and Acceptance

This study investigated the human processing of emotionally distressing material. The study including 89 healthy participants who viewed a distressing video of the aftermath of road traffic accidents under either suppression (of both felt and expressed affect), acceptance, or no-regulation control instructions. The authors examined both the immediate and longer-term consequences on emotion, mood, and memory. Suppression (relative to control) led to reduced subjective experience of fear when viewing the video, but did not alter electrodermal (EDA) or heart rate (HR) response. Subsequently, suppression led to a less marked subjective emotional reaction to positive but not negative emotional images, reduced free recall memory of the video, and a greater likelihood of experiencing zero intrusions of the video's content. Acceptance (relative to control) had no impact when viewing the video, was associated with a less marked increase in EDA activity in the 5 min period immediately after viewing the video, a more marked HR deceleration and EDA response to both positive and negative images, and elevated negative affect at one week follow-up. The authors conclude that, contrary to the current clinical thinking, that emotion suppression can successfully lead to an ongoing down-regulation of emotion and memory. In contrast, acceptance may elevate subsequent emotionality.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: pp 761-773
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01150393
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 16 2010 5:48AM