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Emotion. 2009 Dec;9(6):847-54. doi: 10.1037/a0017745.

The unconscious regulation of emotion: nonconscious reappraisal goals modulate emotional reactivity.

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  • 1Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder, UCB 419, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


People often encounter difficulty when making conscious attempts to regulate their emotions. We propose that nonconscious self-regulatory processes may be of help in these difficult circumstances because nonconscious processes are not subject to the same set of limitations as are conscious processes. Two experiments examined the effects of nonconsciously operating goals on people's emotion regulatory success. In Experiment 1, participants engaged in an anxiety-eliciting task. Participants who had a reappraisal emotion control goal primed and operating nonconsciously achieved the same decrease in physiological reactivity as those explicitly instructed to reappraise. In Experiment 2, the effect of nonconscious reappraisal priming on physiological reactivity was shown to be most pronounced for those who do not habitually use reappraisal strategies. The findings highlight the potential importance of nonconscious goals for facilitating emotional control in complex real-world environments and have implications for contemporary models of emotion regulation.


dual-process; emotion regulation; nonconscious goals; reappraisal

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