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2003 Gross-John JPSP

2003 Gross-John JPSP

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Individual Differences in Two Emotion Regulation Processes:Implications for Affect, Relationships, and Well-Being
James J. Gross
Stanford University
Oliver P. John
University of California, Berkeley
Five studies tested two general hypotheses: Individuals differ in their use of emotion regulation strategiessuch as
reappraisal
and
suppression
, and these individual differences have implications for affect, well-being, and social relationships. Study 1 presents new measures of the habitual use of reappraisal andsuppression. Study 2 examines convergent and discriminant validity. Study 3 shows that reappraisersexperience and express greater positive emotion and lesser negative emotion, whereas suppressorsexperience and express lesser positive emotion, yet experience greater negative emotion. Study 4indicates that using reappraisal is associated with better interpersonal functioning, whereas usingsuppression is associated with worse interpersonal functioning. Study 5 shows that using reappraisal isrelated positively to well-being, whereas using suppression is related negatively.
Emotions have long been viewed as passions that come and go,more or less of their own accord (Solomon, 1976). However, thereis a growing appreciation that individuals exert considerable con-trol over their emotions, using a wide range of strategies toinfluence which emotions they have and when they have them(Gross, 1998). Do individuals differ systematically in their use of particular emotion regulation strategies? If so, do these individualdifferences have important implications for adaptation?In this article, we describe five studies that examine individualdifferences in the use of two common emotion regulation strate-gies—cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. InStudy 1, we present brief scales to measure individual differencesin the chronic use of these two strategies, and address psychomet-ric issues as well as gender and ethnicity effects. In Study 2, welink our new emotion regulation constructs to conceptually relatedindividual differences and address potential confounds. Studies3–5 examine the consequences of these emotion regulation strat-egies in three important domains of adaptation: experience andexpression of emotion, interpersonal functioning, and personalwell-being.
Theoretical Background:A Process Model of Emotion Regulation
We begin with the premise that specific emotion regulationstrategies can be differentiated along the timeline of the unfoldingemotional response (Gross, 2001). Underlying this model is aconception of the emotion-generative process found in the work of a number of prior emotion theorists. This conception holds that anemotion begins with an evaluation of emotion cues. When attendedto and evaluated in certain ways, emotion cues trigger a coordi-nated set of response tendencies that involve experiential, behav-ioral, and physiological systems. Once these response tendenciesarise, they may be modulated in various ways. Because emotionunfolds over time, emotion regulation strategies can be distin-guished in terms of when they have their primary impact on theemotion-generative process.At the broadest level, we distinguish between
antecedent- focused 
and
response-focused 
emotion regulation strategies.Antecedent-focused strategies refer to things we do before theemotion response tendencies have become fully activated and havechanged our behavior and peripheral physiological responding.Response-focused strategies refer to things we do once an emotionis already underway, after the response tendencies have alreadybeen generated. As shown in Figure 1, five families of morespecific strategies can be located along the timeline of the emotionprocess (for elaboration, see Gross, 2001). (We use the term
strategy
here with some reservation because it might be taken toimply that these emotion regulation processes are executed con-sciously. We believe these processes may be executed consciously,but are often executed automatically, without much consciousawareness or deliberation.)Rather than studying all of the many emotion regulation strat-egies at once, we decided to focus in our experimental work and inthis article on a smaller number of well-defined strategies. Toselect strategies for study, we considered several criteria. First, thestrategies should be ones that people use commonly in everydaylife. Second, they should be strategies we could both manipulate in
James J. Gross, Department of Psychology, Stanford University; OliverP. John, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley.Preparation of this article was supported by National Institute of MentalHealth Grants MH58147 and MH43948. Instructions used to administer theEmotion Regulation Questionnaire may be found at the Stanford Psycho-physiology Laboratory Web site (http://www-psych.stanford.edu
psyphy/). Because of strict page limitations, the description of measures,procedures, and data analyses, as well as the references, had to be abridged.We thank Jon Rottenberg for his help with Sample B, Jane Richards for herhelp with Sample C, Heather Myers for her help with Samples D and E,and Sanjay Srivastava for his help with Sample F.Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James J.Gross, Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, Califor-nia 94305-2130. E-mail: james@psych.stanford.edu
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Copyright 2003 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.2003, Vol. 85, No. 2, 348362 0022-3514/03/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.2.348
348
 
the laboratory and define in terms of individual differences. Third,because the distinction between antecedent-focused and response-focused strategies is so central to our theory, we wanted to includeone exemplar of each in our studies. Two specific strategies metthese criteria: cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression.
Cognitive reappraisal
is a form of cognitive change that in-volves construing a potentially emotion-eliciting situation in a waythat changes its emotional impact (Lazarus & Alfert, 1964). Forexample, during an admissions interview, one might view the giveand take as an opportunity to find out how much one likes theschool, rather than as a test of one
s worth.
Expressive suppression
is a form of response modulation that involves inhibiting ongoingemotion-expressive behavior (Gross, 1998). For example, onemight keep a poker face while holding a great hand during a cardgame.Should the reappraisal and suppression strategies differ in theirconsequences? Reappraisal is an antecedent-focused strategy: itoccurs early, and intervenes before the emotion response tenden-cies have been fully generated. This means that reappraisal canthus efficiently alter the entire subsequent emotion trajectory.More specifically, when used to down-regulate negative emotion,reappraisal should successfully reduce the experiential and behav-ioral components of negative emotion. By contrast, suppression isa response-focused strategy: it comes relatively late in theemotion-generative process, and primarily modifies the behavioralaspect of the emotion response tendencies. Suppression shouldthus be effective in decreasing the behavioral expression of neg-ative emotion, but might have the unintended side effect of alsoclamping down on the expression of positive emotion. At the sametime, suppression will not be helpful in reducing the experience of negative emotion, which is not directly targeted by suppressionand may thus continue to linger and accumulate unresolved. Inaddition, because suppression comes late in the emotion-generative process, it requires the individual to effortfully manageemotion response tendencies as they continually arise. These re-peated efforts may consume cognitive resources that could other-wise be used for optimal performance in the social contexts inwhich the emotions arise. Moreover, suppression creates in theindividual a sense of incongruence, or discrepancy, between innerexperience and outer expression (Rogers, 1951). This sense of notbeing true to oneself, of being inauthentic rather than honest withothers (Sheldon, Ryan, Rawsthorne, & Ilardi, 1997), may well leadto negative feelings about the self and alienate the individual notonly from the self but also from others.
Experimental Findings Regarding Reappraisal andSuppression
Some of the model
s predictions have been tested experimen-tally. For example, in one study, participants assigned to thesuppression condition were told to hide emotional reactions to anegative emotion-eliciting film so that an observer could not seewhat they were feeling, whereas participants assigned to the reap-praisal condition were told to think about the film they are watch-ing so that they would not respond emotionally (Gross, 1998).Although participants who suppressed showed much less expres-sive behavior, they experienced as much negative emotion asparticipants who just watched. By contrast, reappraisal decreasedboth the experience and the behavioral expression of negativeemotion. One intriguing point of asymmetry has emerged in thisarea: whereas suppressing negative emotions left intact the expe-rience of negative emotion, suppressing positive emotions de-creased the experience of these emotions (Gross & Levenson,1997; Stepper & Strack, 1993; Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988).The cognitive demands of suppression have been demonstratedin studies of social memory (e.g., names or facts about individuals
Figure 1.
A process model of emotion regulation. According to this model, emotion may be regulated at fivepoints in the emotion generative process: (1) selection of the situation, (2) modification of the situation, (3)deployment of attention, (4) change of cognitions, and (5) modulation of experiential, behavioral, or physio-logical responses. The first four of these processes are antecedent-focused, whereas the fifth is response-focused.The number of response options shown at each of these five points in the illustration is arbitrary, and the heavylines indicate a particular option that might be selected. Our particular focus is reappraisal and suppression. Reprintedfrom
Emotion Regulation in Adulthood: Timing Is Everything,
by J. J. Gross, 2001,
Current Directions inPsychological Sciences, 10,
p. 215. Copyright 2001 by Blackwell Publishers. Reprinted with permission.
349
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN EMOTION REGULATION
 
seen on slides) while either reappraising or suppressing (Richards& Gross, 2000). Suppression
but not reappraisal
led to mem-ory impairment for social information presented while the individ-ual was regulating emotions. This replicated finding suggests thatusing suppression as a regulation strategy is cognitively taxing ina way that reappraisal is not. Might these cognitive costs of suppression give rise to social costs as well, as the suppressor failsto absorb information needed to respond appropriately to others,appearing avoidant, seemingly not in tune with the subtle ebb andflow of the interaction? To test this prediction experimentally,unacquainted pairs of participants watched an upsetting film to-gether and then discussed their reactions (Butler et al., 2003).Unbeknownst to the other, one member of each dyad had beenasked to either suppress, reappraise, or interact naturally with theconversation partner. Interacting with a partner using suppressionwas more stressful than interacting with a partner using reap-praisal, as indexed by increases in blood pressure. These findingssuggest that by disrupting the give and take of emotional commu-nication, suppression has the potential to undermine social func-tioning to a much greater extent than reappraisal.
The Present Studies
The research reviewed so far has relied on the experimentalmanipulation of reappraisal and suppression, and on the analysis of short-term consequences for affect, cognition, and social interac-tion. Such studies provide powerful research designs: by manipu-lating emotion regulatory processes directly, they can demonstratecausal effects of particular strategies on dependent variables of interest. However, such experiments are limited to testing effectsthat are fairly immediate. Because longer term consequences can-not necessarily be extrapolated from short-term consequences, asecond, and complementary, approach is needed. The approachtaken in this article relies on measuring individual differences inthe use of reappraisal and suppression, and analyzing the longerterm consequences that accumulate as individuals use these emo-tion regulation strategies day-in and day-out. These correlationalstudies do not address causal claims or the specific temporalordering of reappraisal and suppression postulated by our model.These claims have been, and will continue to be, addressed exper-imentally. Instead, the present studies examine the real-life andlonger term outcomes associated with these regulatory processes.On the basis of our model and prior experimental work, Table 1summarizes hypotheses about the consequences of individual dif-ferences in the use of reappraisal and suppression, focusing onthree domains. Compared with individuals who rarely use reap-praisal, individuals who habitually use reappraisal should experi-ence and express more positive, and less negative, emotion, havecloser relationships with others, and have higher levels of personalwell-being. By contrast, compared with individuals who rarely usesuppression, individuals who chronically use suppression shouldexperience and express less positive emotion, express less negativeemotion behaviorally yet experience similar or even greater levelsof negative emotion, have relationships that are less emotionallyclose, and have lower levels of well-being. To test these hypoth-eses, we report a series of studies, each with multiple samples,linking individual differences in the use of emotion regulationstrategies to affective, social, and well-being outcomes.
Study 1: Psychometrics and Group Differences
Experimental studies cannot address whether individuals differsystematically in their use of emotion regulation strategies,whether the use of one strategy is correlated with the use of another strategy, and whether there are gender or ethnic differ-ences in strategy use. Study 1 addresses these issues. In terms of gender differences, Western norms suggest that men use suppres-sion to a greater degree than women. Although norms differsomewhat across specific emotions, expressing emotions is gen-erally
viewed as
unmanly
’”
(Brody, 2000, p. 26); parents reportteaching sons greater emotional control than daughters, and boysreport that they are expected to inhibit their emotional expressionsto a greater extent than girls (Underwood, Coie, & Herbsman,1992). In terms of ethnic differences, in the United States, Euro-pean Americans still tend to have more power and social statusthan ethnic minorities. When interacting with higher status (ma- jority) individuals, lower status (minority) individuals should care-fully monitor and control the expression of their emotions toreduce the risk of upsetting powerful others who control valuableresources (Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003). This led us toexpect members of ethnic minority groups to use suppression morefrequently than European Americans.
 Method Participants
Participants in Study 1 were drawn from four undergraduate samples.Sample characteristics for each of these four samples are summarized inTable 2.
 Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ)
We derived the ERQ items rationally, indicating clearly in each item theemotion regulatory process we intended to measure, such as
I control myemotions
by changing the way I think 
about the situation I
m in
(reap-praisal) and
I control my emotions
by not expressing them
(suppression).In addition to these general-emotion items, the Reappraisal scale and theSuppression scale both included at least one item asking about regulatingnegative emotion (illustrated for the participants by giving
sadness
and
anger 
as examples) and one item about regulating positive emotion (ex-emplified by
joy
and
amusement 
). Moreover, care was taken to limit the
Table 1
 Hypothesized Implications of Individual Differences in Use of  Reappraisal and of Suppression in Three Domains of Adaptation
Hypothesis domainEmotion regulation strategyReappraisal SuppressionAffective functioningEmotion experiencePositive Greater LesserNegative Lesser No impact or greaterEmotion expressionPositive Greater LesserNegative Lesser LesserInterpersonal functioning Greater LesserWell-being Greater Lesser
350
GROSS AND JOHN

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