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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015 Oct;10(10):1329-37. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv022. Epub 2015 Feb 19.

Emotional intensity influences pre-implementation and implementation of distraction and reappraisal.

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The School of Psychological Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel and.
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience & Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria.
The School of Psychological Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel and


Although emotional intensity powerfully challenges regulatory strategies, its influence remains largely unexplored in affective-neuroscience. Accordingly, the present study addressed the moderating role of emotional intensity in two regulatory stages--implementation (during regulation) and pre-implementation (prior to regulation), of two major cognitive regulatory strategies--distraction and reappraisal. According to our framework, because distraction implementation involves early attentional disengagement from emotional information before it gathers force, in high-intensity it should be more effective in the short-term, relative to reappraisal, which modulates emotional processing only at a late semantic meaning phase. Supporting findings showed that in high (but not low) intensity, distraction implementation resulted in stronger modulation of negative experience, reduced neural emotional processing (centro-parietal late positive potential, LPP), with suggestive evidence for less cognitive effort (frontal-LPP), relative to reappraisal. Related pre-implementation findings confirmed that anticipating regulation of high-intensity stimuli resulted in distraction (over reappraisal) preference. In contrast, anticipating regulation of low-intensity stimuli resulted in reappraisal (over distraction) preference, which is most beneficial for long-term adaptation. Furthermore, anticipating cognitively demanding regulation, either in cases of regulating counter to these preferences or via the more effortful strategy of reappraisal, enhanced neural attentional resource allocation (Stimulus Preceding Negativity). Broad implications are discussed.


EEG; attentional distraction; cognitive reappraisal; emotion regulation; emotional intensity

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