Choose change: Situation modification, distraction, and reappraisal in mild versus intense negative situations

Bram Van Bockstaele, Ludovica Atticciati, Anu Hiekkaranta, Helle Larsen, Bruno Verschuere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Despite the theoretical importance and applied potential of situation modification as an emotion regulation strategy, empirical research on how people change situations to regulate their emotions is scarce. Meanwhile, existing paradigms typically allowed participants to avoid the entire situation, thus confounding situation modification with situation selection. In our current experiments, participants could choose between partially modifying their negative emotional environment without avoiding it entirely and two well-established emotion regulation strategies (reappraisal and distraction). Participants did choose situation modification (Experiments 1–2) and they did so more often for intense than for mild stimuli in Experiment 2. In addition, modifying the stimulus display effectively helped downregulating negative affect (Experiments 1–2). Finally, in both experiments, participants opted more for distraction for intense compared to mild stimuli, while they opted more for reappraisal for mild compared to intense stimuli. Presenting a first step in developing a paradigm that allows people to exert control over but to not avoid emotion-provoking situations, we thus show that changing one’s environment helps regulating one’s emotions. More generally, our findings indicate that people prefer to regulate their emotions using disengagement strategies (situation modification and distraction) with high-intensity relative to low-intensity negative situations, while they prefer engagement strategies (reappraisal) with low-intensity relative to high-intensity negative situations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalMotivation and Emotion
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

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Emotions
Empirical Research
Down-Regulation

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title = "Choose change: Situation modification, distraction, and reappraisal in mild versus intense negative situations",
abstract = "Despite the theoretical importance and applied potential of situation modification as an emotion regulation strategy, empirical research on how people change situations to regulate their emotions is scarce. Meanwhile, existing paradigms typically allowed participants to avoid the entire situation, thus confounding situation modification with situation selection. In our current experiments, participants could choose between partially modifying their negative emotional environment without avoiding it entirely and two well-established emotion regulation strategies (reappraisal and distraction). Participants did choose situation modification (Experiments 1–2) and they did so more often for intense than for mild stimuli in Experiment 2. In addition, modifying the stimulus display effectively helped downregulating negative affect (Experiments 1–2). Finally, in both experiments, participants opted more for distraction for intense compared to mild stimuli, while they opted more for reappraisal for mild compared to intense stimuli. Presenting a first step in developing a paradigm that allows people to exert control over but to not avoid emotion-provoking situations, we thus show that changing one’s environment helps regulating one’s emotions. More generally, our findings indicate that people prefer to regulate their emotions using disengagement strategies (situation modification and distraction) with high-intensity relative to low-intensity negative situations, while they prefer engagement strategies (reappraisal) with low-intensity relative to high-intensity negative situations.",
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Choose change: Situation modification, distraction, and reappraisal in mild versus intense negative situations. / Van Bockstaele, Bram; Atticciati, Ludovica; Hiekkaranta, Anu; Larsen, Helle; Verschuere, Bruno.

In: Motivation and Emotion, 19.10.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AU - Verschuere, Bruno

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