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Neurosci Lett. 2014 Aug 8;577:45-50. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2014.06.006. Epub 2014 Jun 11.

Cognitive reappraisal of facial expressions: electrophysiological evidence of social anxiety.

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Beijing Key Lab of Applied Experimental Psychology, School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China; Beijing No.4 High School, Beijing, China.
Beijing Key Lab of Applied Experimental Psychology, School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China; State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China; Research Center of Emotion Regulation, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China. Electronic address:
California State University, Los Angeles, USA.


The present study investigates the effect of cognitive reappraisal on emotion regulation in socially anxious individuals. Twenty-eight female subjects were divided into high-socially anxious (HSA) and low-socially anxious (LSA) groups. All subjects viewed threatening faces under cognitive reappraisal and passive viewing conditions, with subjective emotion ratings and event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded. Although the HSA and LSA groups reported similar amounts of reduction in emotion ratings while reappraising threatening faces, ERP data showed the LSA group generated a significantly larger stimuli-preceding negativity (SPN) than the HSA group when viewing the reappraisal cue word. Additionally, the LSA group, but not the HSA group, exhibited reduced P2-N2 peak-to-peak values for the reappraisal condition relative to the passive viewing condition. These results suggest that the LSA subjects paid more attention to and prepared better for the upcoming emotion-regulating task than the HSA subjects. Unlike subjects in the HSA group, subjects in the LSA group could modulate face processing by reappraisal. In conclusion, cognitive reappraisal can be an effective emotion regulation strategy for socially anxious people, and a different neural mechanism may be involved for people who are not socially anxious.


Cognitive reappraisal; Electrophysiology; Face processing; Social anxiety

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