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Emotion Malleability Beliefs Influence the Spontaneous Regulation of Social Anxiety

Research paper by Elizabeth T. Kneeland, Susan Nolen-;Hoeksema; John F. Dovidio; June Gruber

Indexed on: 12 Aug '16Published on: 01 Aug '16Published in: Cognitive Therapy and Research



Abstract

The current study examined how manipulating individuals’ beliefs about emotion’s malleability influences the choices they make in how they spontaneously regulate their anxiety during a stressful social situation. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either an experimental manipulation that emotions are malleable or that emotions are fixed then completed an impromptu, brief speech task designed to elicit anxiety. We predicted that participants in the malleable emotion condition, compared to those in the fixed condition, would engage in more cognitive reappraisal to change the unfolding of an emotion earlier in the emotion generative process; we predicted that participants in the fixed emotion condition would engage in more expressive suppression, a late stage regulation strategy. Consistent with these predictions, participants in the malleable condition reported spontaneously engaging in more cognitive reappraisal during the stressful speech task, although this greater use of reappraisal was not significantly associated with a decrease in negative affect. These results suggest that beliefs about emotion malleability can systematically influence subsequent emotion regulatory behavior. The current study examined how manipulating individuals’ beliefs about emotion’s malleability influences the choices they make in how they spontaneously regulate their anxiety during a stressful social situation. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either an experimental manipulation that emotions are malleable or that emotions are fixed then completed an impromptu, brief speech task designed to elicit anxiety. We predicted that participants in the malleable emotion condition, compared to those in the fixed condition, would engage in more cognitive reappraisal to change the unfolding of an emotion earlier in the emotion generative process; we predicted that participants in the fixed emotion condition would engage in more expressive suppression, a late stage regulation strategy. Consistent with these predictions, participants in the malleable condition reported spontaneously engaging in more cognitive reappraisal during the stressful speech task, although this greater use of reappraisal was not significantly associated with a decrease in negative affect. These results suggest that beliefs about emotion malleability can systematically influence subsequent emotion regulatory behavior.