Evidence for the Role of Working Memory Capacity in the Success and Selection of Emotion Regulation Strategies.
Abstract: I examined predictions of the Selection, Optimization, and
Compensation with Emotion Regulation (SOC-ER) framework. SOC-ER suggests that ER strategies
depend on resources, where higher resource levels lead to better success at using relevant
ER strategies. People may compensate for resource depletion by selecting alternative ER
strategies. In Study 1, I hypothesized that increases or... read moredecreases in resources would
increase or decrease success at using one ER strategy, cognitive reappraisal (CR).
Participants completed two iterations of tasks assessing resource levels, separated by an
operation span task designed to manipulate resources (or a comparable sham task). Results
suggested that increases in working memory capacity (WMC) predicted increases in CR
success, depending on participants' initial reactivity to the stimuli. This was apparent
only in the sham group. Although these results suggested that treatment participants may
have engaged in compensatory selection of alternative strategies following the treatment
task, analyses of ER strategy endorsements did not support this. In Study 2, I followed up
on Study 1 by decreasing the temporal distance between the CR task and the WM manipulation,
so as to capture the effect of WM load and individual differences in WMC on CR success and
possible compensation. In a combined digit span-CR task, participants were instructed to
hold information in mind while using CR. I also assessed participants' reported ER strategy
use following this task. Results suggested that for participants exhibiting relatively low
WMC, regulation success was better under low, compared to high, working memory load, but
only at moderate and high levels of reactivity. Results also revealed that participants
used an alternative ER strategy, attentional deployment, under high working memory load
compared to low working memory load. This suggests that participants compensated for
reduced WM levels. Overall, this dissertation suggests that WM is a resource for CR,
depending on participants' initial reactivity. Furthermore, this dissertation indicates
that participants compensate for resource losses by selecting alternative ER strategies.
These findings have implications for our theoretical understanding of emotion regulation
success, the empirical study of emotion regulation, and the design and implementation of
interventions for psychopathology.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2013.
Submitted to the Dept. of Psychology.
Advisor: Heather Urry.
Committee: James Gross, Derek Isaacowitz, Holly Taylor, and Ayanna Thomas.
Keyword: Experimental psychology.read less