Using temporal distancing to regulate emotion in adolescence: modulation by reactive aggression

Saz Ahmed, Leah Somerville, Catherine Sebastian

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Adopting a temporally distant perspective on stressors reduces distress in adults. Here we investigate whether the extent to which individuals project themselves into the future influences distancing efficacy. We also examined modulating effects of age across adolescence and reactive aggression: factors associated with reduced future-thinking and poor emotion regulation. Participants (N=83, aged 12-22) read scenarios and rated negative affect when adopting a distant-future perspective, near-future perspective, or when reacting naturally. Self-report data revealed significant downregulation of negative affect during the distant-future condition, with a similar though non-significant skin conductance pattern. Importantly, participants who projected further ahead showed the greatest distress reductions. While temporal distancing efficacy did not vary with age, participants reporting greater reactive aggression showed reduced distancing efficacy, and projected themselves less far into the future. Findings demonstrate the importance of temporal extent in effective temporal distancing; shedding light on a potential mechanism for poor emotional control associated with reactive aggression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)812-826
Number of pages15
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number4
Early online date17 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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