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Front Psychol. 2017 Jan 31;8:1. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00001. eCollection 2017.

Individual Differences in Spontaneous Expressive Suppression Predict Amygdala Responses to Fearful Stimuli: The Role of Suppression Priming.

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The Laboratory for Affect Cognition and Regulation (ACRLAB), Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality of Ministry of Education (SWU), Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University Chongqing, China.
Department of Youth Education and Management, Beijing Youth Politics College Beijing, China.


Though the spontaneous emotion regulation has received long discussions, few studies have explored the regulatory effects of spontaneous expressive suppression in neural activations, especially in collectivistic cultural context. The functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study aimed to examine whether individual differences in the tendency to use suppression are correlated with amygdala responses to negative situations when individuals are unconsciously primed with expressive suppression. Twenty-three healthy Chinese undergraduates completed an fMRI paradigm involving fear processing, and a synonym matching task was added to prime participants with the unconscious (automatic) expressive suppression goal. Participants completed measures of typical emotion regulation use (reappraisal and suppression), trait anxiety, and neuroticism. Results indicated that only in emotion suppression prime condition, greater use of suppression in everyday life was related to decreased amygdala activity. These associations were not attributable to variation in trait anxiety, neuroticism, or the habitual use of reappraisal. These findings suggest that in collectivistic cultural settings, individual differences in expressive suppression do not alter fear-related neural activation during suppression-irrelevant context. However, unconscious suppression priming facilitates the manifestation of individual differences in the neural consequence of expressive suppression, as reflected by the priming-specific decrease of emotional subcortical activations with more use of expressive suppression.


amygdala; expressive suppression; fMRI; fear; spontaneous emotion regulation

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