Implicit and Explicit Emotion Regulation: Modulation by Aggressive Subtypes

Saz Ahmed

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Emotion regulation consists of multiple processes that serve to modify emotional reactions. This thesis examines both implicit (automatic) and explicit (deliberate) processes and explores how their function and efficacy are modulated by individual differences in subtypes of aggressive behaviour. These questions are examined in both healthy adults and adolescents. Methods include cognitive testing, self-report, heart rate perception, skin conductance response and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Using a paradigm where emotion is task-irrelevant, Chapter 2 explores how attention is implicitly captured by emotional faces and shows that core psychopathic traits are associated with reduced attention capture by fearful faces in a community sample. Chapter 3 investigates the conditions under which emotion can, and cannot, implicitly capture attention by varying cognitive load in a series of experiments.

From Chapter 4 onwards, explicit emotion regulation is investigated. In Chapter 4 the efficacy of three subtypes of psychological distancing, a form of cognitive reappraisal, is examined. It is shown that interoceptive awareness of bodily states influences the ability to use distancing to regulate emotion effectively. Chapter 5 focuses on the efficacy of one of these strategies, namely temporal distancing (e.g. ‘this too shall pass’), across the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Using a novel experimental task, temporal distancing was shown to be effective across the age range studied, but was reduced with increasing reactive aggression. Neural correlates of temporal distancing are discussed in Chapter 6, which employs an fMRI-adapted version of the task used in Chapter 5.

This thesis concludes that subtypes of aggression influence emotion regulation in different ways. It is therefore crucial to take aggression into account in order to understand individual differences in implicit and explicit emotion regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sebastian, Catherine, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017

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