Resolving anger via two different emotion regulation strategies
Schuster, Kayla R.
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Anger is characterized by three appraisal dimensions, harm, responsibility, and choice (Lazarus, 1991) and can be regulated through reappraisal or suppression (Gross, 1998). Previous research has suggested that reappraisal is a successful down-regulating strategy for negative emotions such as anger (Mauss, Cook, Cheng & Gross, 2007), whereas suppression may increase unpleasant emotional experiences and increase further attempts to avoid emotions and stimuli that elicit specific negative emotions (Boden, Westermann, McRae, Kuo, Alvarez, Kulkami, & Bonn-Miller, 2013). However, no study so far has investigated the effect of these two regulation strategies on anger appraisals. The current study sought to investigate differences in cognitive appraisals between anger events that were resolved through reappraisal and suppression emotion regulation techniques. Participants were made angry and then half of them were given an apology letter and the other half received no apology letter. Half of the participants were then asked to regulate their emotions via reappraisal (i.e., to look at the situation from a different perspective), while the other half were asked to suppress their emotions (i.e., to not show what they felt). Analyses indicated that both reappraisal and suppression techniques indeed reduced anger over time. Further analyses revealed that participants who were asked to suppress their emotions after they did not receive an apology letter were significantly angrier than participants in the other three conditions. Cognitive appraisals of anger were not affected by the experimental manipulations. The current study proposes a new methodological approach for measuring anger intensity and anger appraisals, and suggests that the difference in outcomes of the two regulation techniques is more complex than prior research suggested.