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Emotion Regulation Strategies That Promote Learning: Reappraisal Enhances Children’s Memory for Educational Information
Elizabeth L. Davis and Linda J. Levine
University of California, Irvine
The link between emotion regulation and academic achievement is well documented. Less is known about speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies that promote learning. Six- to 13-year-olds (N = 126) viewed a sad ﬁlm and were instructed to reappraise the importance, reappraise the outcome, or ruminate about the sad events; another group received no regulation instructions. Children viewed an educational ﬁlm, and memory for this was later assessed. As predicted, reappraisal strategies more effectively attenuated children’s self-reported emotional processing. Reappraisal enhanced memory for educational details relative to no instructions. Rumination did not lead to differences in memory from the other instructions. Memory beneﬁts of effective instructions were pronounced for children with poorer emotion regulation skill, suggesting the utility of reappraisal in learning contexts.
Emotion regulation has become a central concern in investigations of children’s emotional development (Campos, Frankel, & Camras, 2004; Thompson, 1994). This growing interest stems from ﬁndings that effective emotion management confers a wide range of interpersonal, academic, and mental health beneﬁts for children (e.g., Calkins, 1994; Eisenberg et al., 1995, 2004; Keane & Calkins, 2004; Saarni, Campos, Camras, & Witherington, 2006). Because of these beneﬁts, school-based emotion education programs have become an increasingly common component of children’s elementary school experience (e.g., Domitrovich, Cortes, & Greenberg, 2007; Greenberg, Kusche, Cook, & Quamma, 1995; Izard, Trentacosta, King, & Mostow, 2004). But many questions remain. Little is known about the speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies that are most effective in contexts where learning is a priority, how speciﬁc strategies affect children’s memory, or whether strategy effectiveness varies for children of different ages and emotion regulatory abilities. The present investigation was conducted to address these questions.
The Effectiveness of Speciﬁc Emotion Regulation Strategies Emotion regulation refers to the processes people use to modify the type, intensity, duration, or expression of emotion (Koole, 2009). To appreciate how children can alter their emotional responses to events, it is useful to consider how emotions are evoked in the ﬁrst place. According to functionalist theories, people experience emotions when they appraise events as relevant to their goals, values, or well-being (e.g., Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003; Smith & Lazarus, 1993). Because emotions depend on appraisals of the relations between events and goals, one means of decreasing negative emotion is for people to change their appraisals of the relevance of events to their goals. This can be accomplished by reappraising the signiﬁcance of an emotion-eliciting event (e.g., thinking of a negative event as unimportant) or by reappraising its outcome (e.g., thinking about how things could get better). Both these reappraisal strategies should effectively circumvent the appraisal process, negating the need for further processing of the emotional event, and decreasing the intensity of negative emotion (Gross, 1998; Ochsner et al., 2004). In contrast to reappraisal, ruminating about the causes and consequences of an emotional response
Elizabeth L. Davis is now a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University. This study was funded by a dissertation award from the Society for Research in Child Development (Student and Early Career Council) and an Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz graduate research scholarship from the American Psychological Foundation, both to the ﬁrst author. We also wish to thank the research assistants who participated in data collection and coding. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elizabeth L. Davis, 101D USB I, Child Study Center, University Park, PA 16802. Electronic mail may be sent to email@example.com.
Ó 2012 The Authors Child Development Ó 2012 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved. 0009-3920/2013/8401-0027 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01836.x
but whether or not instructed rumination prolongs negative emotion for younger children is not yet known. Nolen-Hoeksema et al.. children are presented with neutral information that they are expected to learn. immediately after an emergency room visit. but mnemonic differences would become evident in their ability to recall the details. remains an open question. They report using cognitive strategies. & Quas. & Teasdale. Bo ¨gels. 2011) and in children. Goodyer. Thus.. 2011. One aim of this study. 1996). children’s attention is likely to be directed toward emotionally relevant information. whereas rumination prolongs the appraisal process and intensiﬁes negative emotion (Abela & Hankin. Wisco. & Arntz. 2004. In educational settings. more often when saddened by irrevocable loss than when angered by obstacles to their goals (Davis. Impaired memory for emotionally neutral details. To our knowledge. 2000). Emotion Regulation and Memory for Educational Information We also examined the effects of reappraisal and rumination on children’s memory for educational information. however. Research on rumination points to adolescence as a key period for the onset of this response. This would have implications for children’s academic performance. Abela. such as reappraisal. 2008). Because attention is a limited resource. Roelofs.. if a child feels sad. because we were interested in examining the effectiveness of cognitive strategies for regulating emotion. Aydin. has been documented in both adults (for reviews. Brozina. rather than other strategies. Mather & Sutherland. Levine. We focused on reappraisal strategies and rumination. and contrasted these strategies with rumination. When upset. and these differences have implications for their effectiveness. however. see Levine & Edelstein. Lench. rather than other negative emotions. Emotion directs attention to information that is relevant for understanding and responding to changes in the status of goals (Thompson & Meyer. parental depression. this narrow focus on goal-relevant information may come at the expense of other information in the environment. because research with adults shows that these strategies have strikingly different effects on the cognitive processing of negative events and on the resulting emotional response. research with adolescents and adults has shown that speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies differ in the extent to which they undercut or extend the appraisal process. For example.. rumination increases attention to emotional events and the intensity of negative emotion (Nolen-Hoeksema. 2007). 2010). Whether or not these strategies carry the same beneﬁts and drawbacks for younger children. we hypothesized that children would recall the main ideas from an educational ﬁlm fairly well regardless of which regulatory strategy they used. On the basis of these ﬁndings. to the extent . however. Similarly. Peterson & Bell. Richards & Gross. Abela. so negative emotion may interfere with children’s memory for educational information.. 2007. Ochsner et al. was to contrast the effectiveness with which speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies decrease children’s attention to sad events and the intensity of their feelings of sadness. it cannot be remembered.g.. then. If the educational information is not attended to and encoded. 2004). As a result. & Auerbach. rumination is more commonly a response to sadness than to anger or fear (Nolen-Hoeksema et al. 2004). We assessed whether or not reappraisal of importance and reappraisal of outcomes were similarly effective when used by children (as has been shown with adults. Children’s memory was more accurate for information concerning their injury than for emotionally neutral details concerning their medical treatment. but not for emotionally relevant information. That is. 2002. 2012) or distracting oneself (Park. Experimentally induced rumination has been shown to be less effective at reducing negative emotion among adolescents than reappraising an outcome (Rood. and away from ostensibly peripheral concerns like classroom learning. 2008). Peterson and colleagues assessed children’s memory for serious injuries. Children did remember some main features of their treatment. suggesting that central features of events were still being attended to and encoded. We focused on sadness. although some research suggests that children display a ruminative response style at younger ages if they have an underlying vulnerability or predisposition (e. 2009. Reappraisal strategies effectively undercut the appraisal process and alleviate negative emotion (e. & Lyubomirsky. however.362 Davis and Levine highlights the personal relevance of emotional events. 2008). For example. and again 1 and 2 years later (Peterson. Young children tailor the strategies they use to the particular emotion they are trying to regulate. no studies have instructed children to engage in these strategies and assessed their effects on cognitive processing and emotion. & Haigh. 2002). Ochsner et al.g. she may be preoccupied with thoughts about loss and unable to refocus her attention on emotionally neutral—but potentially important—educational information.
socialization) factors that contribute to individual differences in emotion regulation. Levine. we would expect to see poorer memory for details of emotionally neutral events. on children’s memory for educational material. & Dennis. this proposed interplay of existing regulatory skill and instructed emotion regulation strategy effectiveness would highlight speciﬁc effective . 1989. the researchers did not assess how these broad instructions affected children’s attention to emotional information or whether children’s preexisting regulatory skill led some children to recruit more effective disengagement strategies. Mostow. children with poor emotion regulation skills may beneﬁt most from the use of effective strategies. 2004. 2007. 2003) and teacher reports of emotion regulatory competence (Trentacosta & Izard. Consistent with this view. 1989. but this ability continues to develop during the middle and late childhood years (Altshuler & Ruble. This investigation focused on 6. They were simply instructed to try not to feel or express sadness (disengagement) or to think about their sad feelings and ways to make themselves feel better (engagement). children can generate and use cognitive regulatory strategies (Davis et al. rumination). A goal of the present study was to examine whether or not different cognitive strategies effectively alleviate children’s negative emotion across childhood.. in both cross-sectional (Gumora & Arsenio. it is not clear which disengagement strategies enhanced children’s memory for educational information. study. children were not instructed to use particular strategies (i.e. Emotion regulation skill has been associated with greater academic achievement. Anastopoulous.g. Thompson. For example. using both parent reports (Howse. such as shifting attention and distraction. Saarni et al. 2007). In the Rice et al.. Keane. In addition. Cole.g.. 2006. Calkins & Hill. poorer memory. Because greater emotion regulation skill predicts academic success. highly skilled children who are told to use an ineffective strategy may nonetheless efﬁciently alleviate their negative feelings and free up cognitive resources for attending to and remembering educational material.Reappraisal and Memory in Children 363 that a child’s attention is captured by emotionally relevant information.to 13-year-olds undergoing a venipuncture. however. Children also learn to use speciﬁc regulatory strategies by observing how parents. Children’s developing emotion regulatory skill is further shaped by intrinsic (e. Hodgins and Lander (1997) found that among 5. and of instructions to regulate sadness. suppression. however. In addition. and certain strategies may be explicitly encouraged by caregivers (e. Kalin. In contrast. and these strategies increasingly reﬂected cognitive efforts. 2002) and longitudinal studies. biological) and extrinsic (e. Thompson. Kopp. Developmental and individual differences in emotion regulation . Martin. & Fine. older children reported using a greater number of strategies to cope with the venipuncture. siblings. the effectiveness with which particular strategies decrease negative emotion and attention to emotional information. Davidson. Previous work has shown that. Buss. and individual differences in children’s emotion regulatory skill. This suggests that there may be distinct beneﬁts of emotional disengagement strategies such as reappraisal for school-aged children’s memory for educational information. the present study assessed whether or not particular emotion regulation strategies differ in their effects on children’s memory for educational information. Campos et al. and were viewed as more academically successful by their teachers. and Calkins (2007) showed that children who scored higher on a measure of teacher-rated emotion regulatory ability (Emotion Regulation Checklist [ERC].. Shields & Cicchetti. resulting in fewer available attentional resources and ultimately. Graziano. 2006). and Pizarro (2007) examined the effects of sadness. Keane. 1994). and peers respond to emotion. Calkins & Dedmon. & Shelton.to 13year-old children. 2010). 1997) had higher scores on literary and math achievement tests. For instance. Rice. & Goldsmith.. Research suggests that when it comes to remembering educational material. Reavis. no research has assessed the interaction between emotion regulation skill and the effectiveness of speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies on memory for educational information. Thus.. children with less skill who use an ineffective strategy would be less likely to successfully alleviate their negative feelings. For example.g.g. a large body of research has linked differences in children’s emotion regulation skill with their cognitive development and with individual differences in biology and experience. 1994). Izard.. To date. 2000. by age 5. 2004. Calkins. Results indicated that children instructed to disengage from their feelings of sadness recalled more details concerning the educational ﬁlm than did children receiving instructions that directed their attention to their sad feelings or children who received no emotion regulation instructions. temperamental or physiological differences in emotional reactivity may lead children to favor particular ways of coping with upsetting events (e.. children with higher levels of emotion understanding were rated by teachers as having fewer attention problems (Trentacosta. Thus. distraction. reappraisal. 2004). If supported. Thus.
On the basis of the literature reviewed above. A research assistant. Children were then instructed to regulate their feelings of sadness either by: (a) reappraising the importance of the sad events in the ﬁlm. parks. Latino or Latina (10%). We included both strategies.364 Davis and Levine emotion regulation strategies as potential targets for intervention. About half of the participants were boys (54%). because both of these outcomes impact subsequent attention to. Prior to participation. Interviews with children were videotaped. or did not specify race or ethnicity (13%). because the effectiveness of these two types of reappraisal has not been assessed in children. Children experienced a sad event (watching a sad ﬁlm) and then received instructions to regulate their feelings before educational information was presented. children viewed an educational documentary ﬁlm. African American (3%). educational information. Method Participants Children (N = 126). administered emotion regulation instructions.000. It is possible that for younger children. Because analyses included all cases with complete data for the measure in question. Approximately 86% of participants were from homes with an annual income of at least $50. Two researchers conducted interviews with each child. parents and children gave written consent and assent. The second goal was to identify the effects of speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies on children’s memory for educational information. we expected that. relative to rumination and no instructions. California (46%). Children’s parents were recruited in public places (e. Ochsner et al. their memory was tested for the educational ﬁlm. Parents (predominantly mothers) reported children’s race and ethnicity as non-Hispanic European American (58%). The lead researcher showed children a sad ﬁlm. Paciﬁc Islander (1%). Work with adults has shown that reappraisal of importance and reappraisal of outcomes have similar effects on emotion. or (d) receiving no instructions to regulate emotion. and memory for. but different neural correlates (e.g. We deﬁned effectiveness as attenuating cognitive processing of emotional information and reducing negative affect. Based on these ﬁndings. aged 6 years 10 months to 13 years 0 months (M = 9 years 7 months. The order of experimental procedures was modeled after the sequence of events children commonly experience when dealing with upsetting events in daily life. showed an educational ﬁlm. 2004). viewing an event as unimportant may tax working memory less than thinking of positive outcomes for a negative situation. we did not expect these strategies to differ in the effectiveness with which they decreased children’s negative emotion or in their effects on children’s memory. however. and similar behavioral consequences. some or all memory data were not available for analysis due to equipment malfunction. The third goal was to examine the role that individual differences in emotion regulation skill play in predicting children’s memory for educational information. Procedure Children were randomly assigned to one of four emotion regulation conditions with the restriction that each condition included roughly the same number of children of each age and gender. (c) ruminating about the sad events. as is often done in research on emotion regulation with adult participants. Irvine (54%). and then left the room. SD = 1 year 9 months) participated in this study. Next. we included both types to explore this possibility but did not predict differences. and collected written information from a parent in their home. (b) reappraising the outcome of the sad events. or by phone from a database of families who were interested in research participation at the University of California. The ﬁrst was to determine which emotion regulation strategies were more or less effective for children. and promote memory for subsequent educational information. Six. the current study assessed whether or not children’s regulatory skill interacts with the effectiveness of speciﬁc regulation strategies to affect memory for educational information. sample size varies. who . The Present Study We had three goals in this study. Asian American (13%).. For 5 additional children. This sequence more closely mirrors children’s experiences in school settings than if we had given emotion regulation instructions before eliciting sadness. Chicano or Chicana (2%). Parents did not complete questionnaires for 3 children.to 13-year-old children ﬁrst viewed a ﬁlm clip designed to evoke sadness. both reappraisal of importance and reappraisal of outcomes would attenuate sadness and attention to emotional information..g. especially in academic contexts. libraries.. Finally. Thus. We included two forms of reappraisal in the current study. Thus. family fun day) in Orange County.
Children were trained to rate their feelings of sadness and happiness using fourpoint scales that depicted a neutral face and increasingly sad or happy faces. Educational ﬁlm . Think about what happened to the little girl and her friend that made you sad. How many loaves are baked in the oven at the same time? Answer: 450). I want you to think about why you feel that way. how much did you keep thinking about it: not at all. children were told. 1989). You watched a movie about a little girl and boy who were best friends. half assessed children’s memory for details of the bread-making process that provided a more nuanced understanding (e. Immediately after the sad ﬁlm.. with sadness always rated ﬁrst. I want you to try to think about how it’s only a movie. Please wait just a second while I get ready for the next thing we are going to do. She attends the funeral. Verbal ability was used as a covariate because the memory measures relied on verbal responses and because past research shows that verbal ability is an important component of children’s memory performance (Robertsona & Ko ¨ hler. Before we do the next thing. we think about them afterwards. This ﬁlm has been used successfully to assess memory for educational material in prior research (Rice et al. or very much?’’ Children indicated their response by pointing to a 4-point scale.Reappraisal and Memory in Children 365 was blind to children’s experimental condition and the study hypotheses.’’ Children in the rumi- nation condition were instructed to think about their feelings and about the causes and consequences of the sad events in the ﬁlm: ‘‘If you feel sad. what are you going to try to do?’’ Children in the control condition were not asked this question. ‘‘What did the baker say is always the ﬁrst ingredient in bread?’’ Answer: ‘‘Flour’’).’’ Children then received one of four types of instructions. Sadness was induced in children by showing a 5-min clip from the ﬁlm My Girl. children were asked an open-ended question to assess their understanding of the instructions: ‘‘So. a young girl learns that her friend died (he was allergic to bees and was stung). children rated their emotions before the emotion elicitation procedure. I want you to try to think about how everything that was sad for the little girl could turn out okay after all. 2007). . To assess how much children had thought about the sad ﬁlm. After watching the sad ﬁlm. At the beginning of the interview. Verbal ability . Children then rated their feelings of sadness and happiness.g.g. Half of the questions assessed children’s memory for basic plot-related information of direct relevance to making bread (e. Children were asked 12 cued recall questions about the ﬁlm. Children in the reappraisal of importance condition were instructed to think about how the sad events in the ﬁlm were not relevant or important to them: ‘‘If you feel sad. ‘‘You just saw a movie about a little girl. during which she becomes upset and runs out of the room. No children remained confused after the instructions were repeated. and their understanding was assessed again. Age-normalized. I have to get some papers ready. children rated their emotions once more. children were told. In the clip. a little bit. Think about how everything could get better. children completed the picture vocabulary subtest from the Woodcock–Johnson Revised Test of Achievement (Woodcock & Johnson. Self-report of thinking about the sad ﬁlm . Memory for the educational ﬁlm . Emotion regulation instructions . Watching this makes some children sad. Children next viewed a brief ﬁlm showing a girl’s visit to a bread factory during which she learned in detail about how bread is made. so it’s not important. the instructions were repeated once. which requires them to label a series of progressively more difﬁcult items that are shown in picture form. Think about how those things didn’t happen to you. standardized scores from this test of verbal ability were computed according to published scoring guidelines. The research assistant then returned and assessed children’s memory for the educational ﬁlm. Children also rated their feelings of sadness and happiness several times during the experiment. and sometimes we don’t.’’ Children in the control condition received instructions that did not mention regulating emotion: ‘‘You just saw a movie about a little girl. Emotion self-report . To assess baseline levels of sadness and happiness. After that movie was over. Think about how you would feel if that happened to you in real life.’’ Children in the reappraisal of outcome condition were instructed to think about how the sad events of the ﬁlm could turn out to be positive after all: ‘‘If you feel sad.. 2007). and those things didn’t happen in real life. pretty much. Emotion elicitation . If children expressed confusion about what to do (n = 17).. After watching the educational ﬁlm.’’ After receiving the instructions. children again rated their feelings of sadness and happiness. then entered the room and assessed children’s memory for the educational ﬁlm. and these scores were covaried in analyses. ‘‘Sometimes when we see things.
Central questions asked about what ingredients were put in bread. both reﬂect how successful children were at regulating their response to sad events. a second team coded children’s open-ended emotion regulation responses and the cued recall responses.g. ‘‘How many minutes does it take to bake whole-grain bread?’’ Answer: ‘‘45 min’’).08).g. The decrease in sadness immediately after implementing emotion regulation instructions indexes the .. where does the baker put the bread?’’ Answer: ‘‘In the oven’’). which assesses individual differences in children’s emotion regulation with subscales for Lability–Negativity and Emotion Regulation. Emotion regulation and cued recall responses were coded in separate passes through the data on different days so that coders did not have access to information about children’s emotion regulation responses when coding the memory data. what the ingredients were called. whereas six referred to details (e.93). when asked. The emotion regulation subscale was used for this study. Berntsen.’’ (a main ingredient. transcribed and coded the interview data. ‘‘What are you going to try to do?’’ after administering the emotion regulation instructions.. Coding of open-ended emotion regulation responses . how the ingredients were prepared. & Rubin. and why certain steps in the baking process were necessary. ‘‘I don’t know’’ (not correct) received a score of 0. or no strategy or uncodeable (e. Six of the 12 cued recall questions referred to central aspects of the ﬁlm’s plot (e. Children’s cued recall scores consisted of the sum of their scores for the 12 cued recall questions and ranged from 0 to 24. ‘‘After the dough rises. a = . central information was broadly deﬁned as information that could not be omitted without impairing understanding of the process of bread making. ‘‘Crumbs.g. and a child who responded..366 Davis and Levine Central and detail questions were categorized by two research assistants (100% agreement) who were not involved in data collection or other coding procedures using the following criteria: In line with guidelines described by others (Berntsen. Assessing strategy effectiveness .’’ (the correct response) received a score of 2.g. We created a composite variable indexing the effectiveness of children’s emotion regulation during the study.’’) that are rated on a scale from 1 (never) to 4 (almost always). The composite included the following: (a) the difference between children’s sadness rating after the sad ﬁlm and their sadness rating after implementing the emotion regulation instructions.85).g. ‘‘Think about how she could get a new friend’’). j = 0. Parents also completed the ERC (Shields & Cicchetti. 1997). Central and detail scores were computed.g.’’ or. This subscale is composed of the sum of eight items (e. ‘‘I didn’t do anything’’. 2009).. Children’s responses to the 12 cued recall questions about the educational ﬁlm clip were scored as completely correct (score of 2). rumination (e.g.16. the effect of individual ingredients on the dough. ‘‘I would just feel beyond sad if that happened to me’’). Details were broadly deﬁned as information that enhanced understanding of the process of bread making (e. Detail questions asked about the protagonists’ appearance. ‘‘What is the ingredient that the baker says all bread starts with?’’ a child who responded. ‘‘Salt. Coding recall of the educational ﬁlm . reappraisal of outcome (e. with a total possible score of 12 for each information type.. blind to the children’s experimental condition and the study hypotheses. Published internal consistency for this subscale is good. the length of time needed for certain steps of the baking process. Reliability was calculated on a total of 29 transcripts (23% of cases) and was excellent (j = 0. these variables were combined because they are conceptually related. p = . the research assistant asked the child’s parent to complete a questionnaire on demographics. ‘‘Flour. 2002.64. and was adequate in this sample.. Talarico.. ‘‘Think about how I’m just watching this on a DVD’’). Although distinct. but not the one the baker indicated as the ﬁrst and most important ingredient) received a score of 1. A complete list of the cued recall questions for the educational ﬁlm is provided in the Appendix. As a check of children’s ability to understand and implement the emotion regulation instructions. the researcher asked children. Coding and Data Reduction Trained research assistants. what order things happened in the baking process. provided a more nuanced and complete understanding). a child who responded.. ‘‘Responds positively to neutral or friendly overtures by peers. a = . Children’s responses to this openended prompt were coded as reappraisal of importance (e.g. One team of research assistants transcribed the videotaped memory interviews. While the child was watching the ﬁlms. and the number of loaves that could be baked at one time. Cued recall of the educational ﬁlm was coded by two trained research assistants. partially correct (score of 1).83. For instance. why machines were used for certain steps. or not correct (score of 0). Parent-report measures . and (b) children’s ratings of how much they thought about the sad ﬁlm (r = .
As expected.14 0.13 0.02. Preliminary Analyses Table 1 presents descriptive statistics and correlations among study variables.05.35*** )0.89) (2. SE = 0. and manipulation checks.84*** 0. Emotion regulation skill was also covaried in primary analyses. and age and verbal ability were included as covariates.97. Emotion regulation condition was the independent variable.38) 1 2 3 4 5 106.57) (2. we conducted a repeated measure analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with baseline sadness and sadness reported immediately after the sad ﬁlm as the dependent variables.74) (1. Thus.54 5. p = . Higher scores indicated less effective regulation (less of a decrease in sadness after using instructed strategies. In the ﬁnal section of the results.57 9. Because gender was not a primary focus of this study. Children in the control condition were not asked this question.35*** 0.Reappraisal and Memory in Children 367 strategy’s immediate effectiveness. To ﬁnd out whether or not children understood the emotion regulation instructions. The third section examines the effects of these emotion regulation strategies on children’s memory for educational information. whereas the later self-report of emotional processing indexes the strategy’s longer term effectiveness by providing a measure of the extent to which cognitive resources were allocated to the sad ﬁlm instead of educational information.001. The second section examines the effectiveness of the strategies children were instructed to use to regulate sadness. more thinking about sad information). and 69% of children in the rumination condition. The strategies that children reported corresponded to the instructions given for 78% of the children in reappraisal of importance condition. we explored whether or not age and individual differences in emotion regulation skill moderated the association between emotion regulation strategies and memory. the emotion elicitation procedure was effective.16 0. partial g2 = .05.88. we examined their responses to the question. Which Emotion Regulation Strategies Were Most Effective? To assess the effectiveness of speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies.02 0.10. to rule out the possibility that children’s existing skill could explain effects otherwise attributable to the emotion regulation instructions. SE = 0. Lower scores on this composite indicated more effective regulation (decreased sadness after implementing the emotion regulation instructions.22* 0. . The ﬁrst section reports the results of preliminary analyses of potential covariates.41. this variable was not included in subsequent analyses.16. 120) = 5.98 27. ps > .74) (4. F(1.50*** p < . no effect of experimental condition was found.50 6.32*** 0. Because verbal ability and age were related to memory outcomes.03.61 12. To ﬁnd out whether or not the sad ﬁlm successfully elicited sadness. Results Overview The results are organized into four sections.50*** 0. These ratings were standardized and aggregated. *p < . 70% of children in reappraisal of outcome condition. Children reported greater sadness after the ﬁlm (M = 1. Boys and girls did not differ signiﬁcantly on any memory outcome or control variable. the majority of children in each condition indicated that they understood the instructions and intended to follow them.53) (3. The ﬁnal section assesses how strategy effectiveness and individual differences in emotion regulation skill interacted to predict memory accuracy. ***p < . less thinking about sad information).02). we examined two aspects of Table 1 Means (and Standard Deviations) and Bivariate Correlations for Study Variables M Verbal ability Emotion regulation skill Age Cued recall (overall) Cued recall (central) Cued recall (detail) (SD) (14. moderators. Thus. ts < 1.07) than before it (M = 1.19* 0.50*** 0.11 )0.96 0. they were included as covariates in all primary analyses. given that emotion regulation instructions were provided after children had watched the sad ﬁlm. ‘‘So.89*** 0. what are you going to try to do?’’ which followed the instructions.
08.03. d = 0. p < .58) and no instructions (M = 0. Unadjusted means (and standard errors) are shown in Table 2. 121) = 4. and (b) the extent to which children reported that they continued to think about the sad ﬁlm. 121) = 3.25.01. reappraisal of importance: M = )0.63.13). t(120) = 2. p = .00.99. The results showed a signiﬁcant interaction between condition and information type. d = 0. t(118) = 2.07. In summary. p < .01.01. F(3.36.16. we conducted contrast tests to examine memory for central and detail information separately. partial g2 = . and children in the control condition. p < . verbal ability. 121) = 2.05.04. The results for memory for central information showed that there were no differences by condition.48. but reappraisal was more effective than ruminating or receiving no regulation instructions. After analyzing the strategy effectiveness composite.001.07. An ANCOVA on the extent to which children continued to think about the sad ﬁlm showed a marginal effect of condition.46.68. An ANCOVA on the strategy effectiveness composite showed a signiﬁcant effect of condition. To explore this interaction. F(3.10.07. SE = 0. This ﬁnding is consistent with Koole’s (2009) meta-analysis of emotion regulation studies which showed that participants in control conditions frequently show a decrease of negative emotion.81. SE = 0. d = 1.09. weighting the combined reappraisal conditions against the rumination and no instructions conditions.03. In addition.16) conditions (weighted together) than in the rumination (Madj = 2.12.37. p = .75. SD = 1. SD = 1.12. p < . SD = 1. Children instructed to reappraise outcomes.58) weighted together. SE = 0.368 Davis and Levine effectiveness: (a) the extent to which the intensity of sadness changed between children’s ratings immediately after viewing the sad ﬁlm and after implementing the emotion regulation strategy.16) and control (Madj = 2. analyses of strategy effectiveness showed no signiﬁcant differences between the two types of reappraisal. d = 1. t(32) = 2.17) and reappraisal of outcome (Madj = 2. p = . Parent report of children’s emotion regulation skill was not a signiﬁcant covariate. no decrease of sadness was found for children in the rumination condition (Madj = 0. t(120) = 3.13).74. remembered more central information than peripheral details.16) conditions (weighted together). An ANCOVA (controlling for age. SE = 0. SE = 0. d = 0.61. However. This may occur because participants engage in emotion regulation regardless of whether they are instructed to do so by researchers. p < .013. SE = 0. partial g2 = . After receiving emotion regulation instructions.48. t(30) = 18.104.22.168. showing the efﬁcacy of reappraisal for regulating emotion. d = 0.17) were more effective than rumination (M = 0.75. ns.006.44. d = 0. Thus. in contrast.76.036.01.13). d = 0. t(31) = 1. lower scores represent more effective regulation. t(28) = 2. F(3. t(29) = 3. Post hoc weighted contrast tests showed that the two types of reappraisal (weighted together. Children tended to think about the sad ﬁlm less in the reappraisal of importance (Madj = 2. Taken together. the intensity of reported sadness decreased for children in the reappraisal of importance condition (Madj = )0. p = . t(122) = 2. the two kinds of reappraisal were more effective than no instructions. the reappraisal conditions were more successful than either the rumination condition or the control condition in preventing children from dwelling on the sad events that had occurred in the ﬁlm. we examined whether or not experimental condition predicted differences in each of the two components separately. d = 1. partial g2 = . SE = 0.01. .10. The results for memory for details from the educational ﬁlm showed that children who were instructed to reappraise importance or outcomes remembered more details than children who received no emotion regulation instructions.46. 112) = 3. indicating that strategy effectiveness was attributable to the emotion regulation instructions rather than to children’s preexisting regulatory abilities. and emotion regulation skill) on differences scores for sadness showed a signiﬁcant main effect of condition. p = . Children instructed to ruminate did not differ in the number of details recalled from children in the other three conditions.01. Emotion Regulation Strategies and Memory for Educational Information To assess the effects of speciﬁc emotion regulation strategies on children’s memory for central information and details of the educational ﬁlm.36. F(3.06.39. the intensity of emotion elicited by the sad ﬁlm decreased for children in the reappraisal and control conditions but not for children in the rumination condition. We ﬁrst created a composite index of these two conceptually related measures of strategy effectiveness by standardizing each measure and adding the two z scores together.12).72. p = .38. SD = 1.046. t(32) = 2. we conducted a repeated measures ANCOVA that controlled for age. p = . partial g2 = . SE = 0. verbal ability. p = . and emotion regulation skill.33. and the control condition (Madj = )0. reappraisal of outcomes: M = )0. the reappraisal of outcome condition (Madj = )0.98.
70 6. In each model.84*** . Discussion The effectiveness with which children can regulate emotion has important consequences for learning and memory.36 0.96*** b t Note. t = 7. b = 0.96* 1.001. and parentreported emotion regulatory skill (For ease of interpretation. emotions can divert attention from other information. Strategy Effectiveness and Individual Differences in Regulatory Skill Predicting Memory To assess whether or not individual differences in children’s emotion regulation skill were related to their memory for educational information. In Step 2.56 0. Strategy effectiveness was based on children’s self-reports.62 SE 0.67*** . such as educational material. showed enhanced memory for details when strategy effectiveness was higher.40*** 3.79a 5. Subscript letters denote signiﬁcant differences between different letters in weighted contrasts tests (p < . Emotions direct attention to information that seems immediately relevant to maintaining well-being or attaining goals.12 . p < . we entered twoway interactions of all centered terms (Age · Strategy Effectiveness. children rated by parents as having better emotion regulatory skill remembered detail information from the educational ﬁlm comparably well regardless of strategy effectiveness.10 . we conducted two regression analyses. reappraisal of outcomes.17 ). This basic insight provides part of the motivation for the growing number of emotion education programs in schools.21 DF 15.40 11.55.09 .55 5.42 . *p < . we entered verbal ability in Step 1.52 0.31 1.10.49 0.55 6.04 2.001. strategy effectiveness. we entered the three-way interaction of age.70 .01 1. strategy effectiveness. Because attentional capacity is limited. b = 0.08 .20 ).38 0.06 1.13. As shown in Figure 1.87 5. Children rated as having poorer regulatory skill.44 Note. detail) for that instruction condition. and rumination on children’s memory for educational .05.12 1. p < .55 M 6.96. But what kinds of regulation strategies should such programs teach? This study examined the effects of reappraisal of importance.12 . So a child who can regulate his or her feelings has an intellectual advantage over one whose emotions continue to command attention.30 1. we entered age. strategy effectiveness was reverse scored for this analysis so that higher scores indicate greater effectiveness). Strategy Effectiveness · Regulatory Skill).29 6. ***p < .Reappraisal and Memory in Children Table 2 Means (and Standard Errors) for Cued Recall of the Educational Film by Condition Type of information Central Emotion regulation instruction Reappraisal of importance Reappraisal of outcome* Rumination No instructions* n 29 33 31 29 M 6. Table 3 Hierarchical Regression Analyses Predicting Children’s Memory for Details From an Educational Film (N = 119) Predictor Step 1 Verbal ability Step 2 Emotion regulation skill Strategy effectiveness Age Step 3 ER Skill · Strategy Effectiveness ER Skill · Age Strategy Effectiveness · Age Step 4 ER Skill · Strategy Effectiveness · Age DR2 . and regulatory skill. An interaction of strategy effectiveness and emotion regulatory skill was found. In Step 4.91a 5.07 1. The results showed that better memory for central information was predicted only by increasing age. on the other hand.28b Detail 369 SE 0. Asterisks (*) denote a signiﬁcant pairwise difference in the type of information recalled (central vs.05).49 0. The measure was reverse scored so that higher scores indicate greater effectiveness in alleviating sadness and attenuating processing of sad information.57. likely to be relevant in the long run. The dependent variables were memory for central and detail information from the educational ﬁlm. Age · Regulatory Skill. SE = 0. Table 3 shows the results of the regression analyses for memory for detail information. In Step 3.
Peterson & Bell. We measured strategy effectiveness based on children’s reports of attenuation of sadness and reduction in processing of sad information. and rumination ineffective. we found that reappraising the importance or outcome of sad events was more effective for regulating sadness than rumination or no emotion regulation instructions. Two factors may have contributed to ﬁnding no memory impairment in children instructed to ruminate. instructions to reappraise the importance or outcome of sad events led to better memory for the details of the educational ﬁlm.370 12 Cued Recall of Educational Details Davis and Levine 10 8 6 4 Low Emotion Regulation Skill High Emotion Regulation Skill 2 0 Low Strategy High Strategy Effectiveness Effectiveness Effectiveness of Instructed Emotion Regulation Strategy Figure 1. cyclical response style that has been the focus of most empirical research on rumination. Instructions concerning how to regulate emotion did not affect children’s memory for the central points of the educational ﬁlm. 2007). We also explored whether or not age and individual differences in children’s regulatory skill moderated the relation between strategy effectiveness and memory.. Although children instructed to ruminate in our study reported feeling sadder and thinking more about sad events. the results of this study highlight the beneﬁts of instructing children to use reappraisal strategies to effectively regulate sadness and improve memory for educational information. though. the short-term rumination we elicited may have less deleterious effects than the chronic. attending closely to the educational content. 1991. our instructions did not appear to elicit the persistent focus on sad feelings and events that would have resulted in . Nolen-Hoeksema et al. 1995.. Interaction of emotion regulation strategy effectiveness and emotion regulation skill predicting cued recall of details from the educational ﬁlm. even though there was a clear difference in how effectively these strategies regulated sadness. 2002. Taken together. ruminating did not improve memory relative to receiving no instructions. Also in line with our predictions. As predicted. Children may have carried over instructions to think carefully about events to the next ﬁlm. we expected reappraisal strategies to be more effective for regulating children’s sadness than rumination or no regulation instructions because reappraisal diminishes the extent to which children construe emotional information as goal relevant or as negative. Drawing on prior work (Rice et al. compared to not being instructed to use any strategy.. As typically studied. As predicted. although mental reframing may not be desirable in all contexts. 2003. We investigated the extent to which these strategies reduced sadness and attenuated processing of the sad information. using reappraisal did not lead to better memory than rumination. Second. In contrast to this experimental context. 2007) and appraisal theories of emotion (Ellsworth & Scherer.. strategy effectiveness was not explained by preexisting individual differences in children’s regulatory skill but instead was accounted for by the emotion regulation instructions. High strategy effectiveness indicates greater effectiveness in alleviating sadness and attenuating processing of sad information. reappraisal has been shown to be effective. Thompson & Meyer. Somewhat surprisingly. though. it certainly holds promise for contexts in which children must manage distress efﬁciently and turn their attention to other concerns. Nolen-Hoeksema. 2004). Strategy effectiveness was based on children’s self-reports. Emotion regulation skill was based on parents’ reports.g. and their effects on children’s memory. Thus. rumination is a trait-like response to negative events that involves a continued focus on the causes and consequences of negative emotion (Abela & Hankin. 2008. Ochsner et al. Importantly. This ﬁnding is consistent with prior work showing that children recall central features of past experiences even when distressed (Peterson. for regulating negative emotion (e. 2004). Note. instructing children to ruminate after watching the sad ﬁlm may have inadvertently prompted children to pay closer attention to the educational ﬁlm than they otherwise would have done. 2011. In adults.. information. ruminating on sad events in daily life would not be expected to promote careful attention to emotionally neutral information. 1996). First. High and low labels correspond to values ±1 SD from the mean. This study is one of the ﬁrst to compare the effectiveness of these strategies when used by elementary school-aged children. Levine. Rumination instructions encouraged children to think about the content of the sad ﬁlm in a manner that highlighted the personal relevance of the events. Park et al.
This strategy is clearly useful in situations that require children to move .. Children may have been able to reappraise the importance or outcome of the ﬁlm’s events in part because it was simply a ﬁlm. Abela et al. so we also assessed whether or not there were age differences in the mnemonic beneﬁts of using effective strategies. This study included a wide range of ages. in contrast. As expected. these children may have been able to draw on supplementary regulatory resources to attend to the educational material. Children within the age range studied (6–13 years) may be resistant to engaging in rumination at a level comparable to this response style unless they have an underlying vulnerability or predisposition (e. possibly because they were the most effective strategies for alleviating lingering sadness. recalled more details of the educational ﬁlm as strategy effectiveness increased. Finally. 2007. Howse et al. 2010). Abela et al. This indicates that children across the elementary school years could beneﬁt from being taught to use reappraisal strategies. but rather supplementary information. bread making).. In addition.. These ﬁndings suggest that instructing children to engage in reappraisal strategies should be especially useful for enhancing learning in children with less preexisting emotion regulatory skill. Speciﬁcally. such as anger and fear. This ﬁnding is important because prior work has shown that children can generate cognitive emotion regulation strategies as early as age 5 (Davis et al.Reappraisal and Memory in Children 371 poorer memory for educational information. Future research should examine strategies for regulating other emotions. children who are better able to regulate emotion and retain a more thorough understanding of educational information would have a distinct intellectual advantage... 2006) and academic achievement (Graziano et al. regardless of the effectiveness of the strategy they had been instructed to use. Instructed reappraisal strategies for regulating emotion were particularly effective for promoting accurate memory for details of an educational ﬁlm among children who were not skilled at emotion regulation to begin with. Children who were rated as less skilled at emotion regulation. reappraisal appears to work in part because it minimizes the self-relevance of an upsetting outcome. The lack of an interaction between age and strategy suggests that children in the early elementary school years are able to employ the instructed strategies to the same effect as older children. Given that emotion regulation skill has been associated with fewer attentional problems (Trentacosta et al. 2003). ﬁndings supported our expectation that reappraisal strategies would lead to memory improvements. to promote subsequent learning.. 2002). 2010). Limitations and Directions for Future Research Limitations of this study should also be noted. parental depression. children with better recall of details had a more complete and nuanced understanding of the educational content (in this case. to more fully elucidate the emotion regulation strategies that enhance children’s learning. Because the details were not irrelevant or unimportant aspects of the ﬁlm. watching a sad ﬁlm is very different from experiencing a sad event in one’s own life. our ﬁndings suggest that reappraisal strategies are good candidate strategies for use in emotion education programs in schools.g. children recalled more information (central and detail) from the educational ﬁlm with increasing age. but additional work is needed to clarify whether or not rumination has deleterious effects on children’s memory. The present study focused on one emotional state.. children with a higher level of parent-reported skill recalled details of the educational ﬁlm equally well. In summary. In settings in which learning is a priority. In fact. but our study is one of the ﬁrst to investigate whether or not they are able to effectively implement a cognitive emotion regulation strategy that has been suggested by someone else. Our ﬁndings suggest that reappraisal may be a speciﬁc emotion regulation strategy that would be useful for parents and teachers to encourage children to use when facing negative emotions in educational contexts. 2007. Future studies should investigate whether or not reappraisal confers the same beneﬁts to memory for educational information when children are coached to use this strategy to cope with events in their own lives. but age did not interact with regulatory skill or strategy effectiveness to predict memory.. when the emotion regulation strategies children used were highly effective. The emotion regulation strategies that would be effective for coping with one emotion are not necessarily the same strategies that would best allow children to cope with another emotion (Davis et al. Individual differences in children’s existing emotion regulatory skill did not directly predict memory. but regulatory skill moderated the relation between strategy effectiveness and memory for details of the educational ﬁlm. Overall. and was not happening in real life. less skilled children recalled educational details at a level comparable to that of children with greater preexisting regulatory skill.
Levine. In R. A. but it may not be a useful strategy for dealing with extremely emotional events like a trauma or natural disaster. On the nature of emotion regulation. Child Development.). Brozina. (2011). & Dennis.. R.1467-8624. D. 25–46. Smith. 28. whether by reappraising its importance or outcome.00652. doi:10. doi:10.. 103–118. Fabes. Appraisal processes in emotion.372 Davis and Levine Altshuler. Z. D. 53–72. R.. J. Journal of Primary Preventions.. E.. Child Development.. 30.4. Reiser.. doi:10. Fabes.. E. Fox (Ed. T. 1010–1020. and has important implications for designing programs to help children to learn effectively.. Developmental changes in children’s awareness of strategies for coping with uncontrollable stress.. J. R. 498–510. R.40. Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. K... Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.. H. (2002). (2000). T. doi:10. Context speciﬁc freezing and associated physiological reactivity as a dysregulated fear response..1023/ A:1005112912906 Calkins. B. S. 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How long do they leave it in the cabinet? (15 min) How many loaves are baked in the oven at the same time? (450) How many minutes does it take to bake whole-grain bread? (45 min) . Mostow.7. doi:10. J. rye kernels have to soften before they put them in the bread? (1 day) After the dough rises. J. M. & Johnson. (2007). Kindergarten children’s emotion competence as a predictor of their academic competence in ﬁrst grade.2006. School Psychology Quarterly. 21. R. J. 249–288). R. C. A. where does the baker put the dough? (In the oven) After the bread comes out of the oven.1521/scpq. 21. do to the bread? (Gives it color and ﬂavor) Why do they use a machine to make the dough into round balls? (It makes them faster and rounder than a baker could) They put the dough in a cabinet to warm it before cooking. they leave it in a room for a while. New York: Guilford Press. S. & Meyer.. molasses.. 7.77 Appendix Cued Recall Questions (and Answers) From the Educational Film Central Information When they make the bread in the bakery they use many different ingredients. Emotion. B.374 Davis and Levine Trentacosta. (1989).. 77–88. E. C..). In J. Why do they leave the bread in this room? (To cool) Why do they have to cool the bread? (To slice it) Detail Information When the man is showing the girl around the bread factory. Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. Socialization of emotion regulation in the family. TX: DLM Teaching Resources. & Fine. & Izard. (2007). S. What is the black stuff called? (Molasses) How long do the raw. J.. E.1. Thompson. Gross (Ed. Izard. What did the baker say that every kind of bread begins with? (Flour) The girl tastes some black stuff from a spoon.1037/1528-3542.148 Woodcock. E. C.2. C. Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJ-R). (2006). 148–170. the man and girl are both wearing the same kind of clothing. Children’s emotional competence and attentional competence in early elementary school. doi:10. Trentacosta. W. What are they both wearing? (Hats or aprons) What does that black stuff. A. Allen..
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