Dynamic processes in emotion regulation choice
Because emotion regulation (ER) processes operate over time, they potentially change the context in which subsequent ER processes occur. To test this proposal, fifty-two healthy participants completed the ER choice task. Thirty standardized low- and high-intensity negative images were used to generate different emotional contexts in which participants selected between distraction or reappraisal strategies to decrease the intensity of their negative emotion. Participants then implemented their selected strategy and rated their negative emotion. Using a dynamic perspective, we examined as predictors of ER strategy choice, in addition to current stimulus intensity, several contextual factors from the immediately preceding trial: preceding stimulus intensity and strategy choice, and the intensity of negative affect following the previous strategy implementation and thus preceding the current trial. Results replicated earlier findings that participants are more likely to choose distraction for high-intensity images. Extending earlier findings, selecting reappraisal in the preceding trial and greater negative affect preceding the current trial were associated with lower odds of choosing distraction. The lack of significant interactions among the current and preceding trial factors suggests that these effects on ER choice were direct and not through moderating the effect of current stimulus intensity. These findings support dynamic theories of ER.