Turn down the volume or change the channel? Emotional effects of detached versus positive reappraisal

  • Shiota M
  • Levenson R
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Cognitive reappraisal, or changing one’s interpretation of an event in order to alter the emotional response to it, is thought to be a healthy and effective emotion regulation strategy. Although researchers recognize several distinct varieties of reappraisal, few studies have explicitly compared the effects of multiple reappraisal strategies on emotional responding. The present study compares the effects of detached and positive reappraisal on thought content, subjective emotional experience, physiological reactivity, and facial expressions of emotion while viewing film clips evoking sadness and disgust. While both forms of reappraisal reduced overall emotional responding to unpleasant stimuli, the effects of detached reappraisal were stronger in this regard, and positive reappraisal was more likely to maintain subjective experience and facial expression of stimulus-appropriate positive emotions. The two reappraisal strategies also produced somewhat different profiles of physiological responding. Differences between detached and positive reappraisal with respect to subjective experience and facial expression were more pronounced among men than women; the reverse was true for differences with respect to physiological responding. Beyond these effects on individual emotion response systems, detached and positive reappraisal also had somewhat different effects on coherence in change across response systems. Implications for our understanding of emotion regulation processes, and for emotion theory more broadly, are discussed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Nonverbal expression
  • Psychophysiology
  • Reappraisal

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  • Michelle N. Shiota

  • Robert W. Levenson

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