Expressive suppression versus cognitive reappraisal: Effects on self-report and peripheral psychophysiology
Effectiveness of various emotion regulation (ER) strategies have received much attention in recent research. Among the most studied ER strategies are cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. However, the evidence of their effectiveness is controversial and depends on the measures used. The aim of the present study was to compare the effectiveness of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression strategies of ER via different measures such as self-report, facial expressions (zygomaticus major and corrugator supercilii electromyography), and physiological assessment (skin conductance response and heart rate deceleration). Participants were presented with intensely unpleasant or neutral pictures and performed ER tasks. We expected that the implementation of ER strategies would reduce negative emotions, and cognitive reappraisal would produce greater reduction in negative emotions compared to expressive suppression. Self-report data showed that reappraisal had a greater effect on the reduction of negative emotions compared to suppression. There was no difference between reappraisal and suppression assessed with skin conductance response and electromyography. Curiously, heart rate deceleration increased while participants tried to suppress their emotional expressions, which could reflect efforts exerted in the attempt to suppress. The ER strategies reduced negative emotions during the presentation of unpleasant pictures partially in skin conductance response and heart rate deceleration. Overall, reappraisal is more effective in changing subjective experience, whereas the physiological reactions do not differ substantially between the two ER strategies explored. We therefore recommend that the assessment of ER strategies in the laboratory should accommodate more than one type of measures to come to more reliable conclusions.