Always in flux: the role of attentional focus in emotion regulation dynamics

Funding Number

T32 AG00030-32

Funding Sponsor

National Institute on Aging

Author's Department

Psychology Department

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Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Cognition and Emotion

Publication Date





Flexible emotion regulation (ER) in response to contextual changes is important for well-being. However, little is known about predictors of ER dynamics or their consequences. We investigated these questions in 113 romantic couples by priming self-, partner-, or relationship-focus in one partner prior to a 10-min conflict discussion. Afterwards, participants reported their ER using a video-recall task, and independent coders rated participants’ affective behaviours. Couples focused on their relationship were more likely to switch between ER strategies, as expected. Switching predicted increased positive affect (PA), and this effect was stronger for couples in the self-focus condition than those in the partner-focus condition. Results suggest that focusing on a wider range of contextual information leads to more dynamic regulation. Further, regulating dynamically may generally be beneficial, especially if one does not neglect the self.

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