Attentional deployment in emotion regulation: Should people pay attention or not?

Eduardo Barros, Purdue University


Previous research in the area of emotion regulation has shown that some antecedent-focused emotion regulation strategies are more effective at regulation emotion than response-focused strategies (e.g., Gross & John, 2003). However, most of the evidence available has compared only reappraisal (an antecedent-focused strategy) with suppression (a response-focused strategy). In this research two studies were designed in order to compare another antecedent-focused strategy, namely attentional deployment, with suppression, a response-focused strategy. Study 1 was a questionnaire-based, cross-sectional design, intended to test the hypothesis that the use of attentional deployment would predict greater experiencing of positive emotions and lesser experiencing of negative emotions, and that this strategy would also predict greater levels of subjective well-being in people who tend to use it frequently. The opposite was predicted for suppression. The results supported the majority of the hypotheses when a 12-item questionnaire was used to measure attentional deployment and suppression; however, the hypotheses were not supported when a scenario-based was used to measure these strategies. Study 2 used an Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) approach that measured the actual use of attentional deployment and suppression three times a day for 14 days. The main hypothesis of this study predicted that attentional deployment would be more effective at regulating emotions than suppression on a momentary basis. The results did not support this hypothesis, since neither attentional deployment, nor suppression predicted emotion regulation effectiveness. In addition to the main hypotheses of each study, both studies compared the independence of the use of attentional deployment and suppression. Interestingly, the 12-item questionnaire showed that the strategies were not correlated, whereas the EMA study indicated that the strategies were correlated. The limitations, future research, and the implications of the differences in the results based on the two methods used are discussed.




Weiss, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Social psychology|Occupational psychology

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