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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018 Jun 28. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000200. [Epub ahead of print]

Using reappraisal to regulate negative emotion after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election: Does emotion regulation Trump political action?

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Department of Psychology.
Rotman School of Management.
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University.
Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley.


Political action (volunteering, protesting) is central to functioning democracies, and action is often motivated by negative emotion. However, theories of emotion regulation suggest that people often strive to decrease such negative emotions. Thus, effective emotion regulation (e.g., reappraisal)-while helping people feel better-could have the unintended consequence of hindering political action. We tested this hypothesis in Clinton voters after the 2016 U.S. election (Ntotal = 1552). Studies 1a (conducted November 2016) and 1b (conducted November 2016, with a follow-up in January 2017) assessed individuals' recent use of reappraisal in managing emotions evoked by the election. Studies 2a and 2b (conducted March 2017) exposed individuals to Trump-focused news footage and assessed individuals' reappraisal during the clip and subsequent emotional responses. Studies 3a and 3b (conducted June 2017) experimentally manipulated reappraisal and measured subsequent emotional responses to Trump-focused news footage. Each study assessed recent or intended political action. In Studies 1a and 1b, we found that reappraisal predicted lower political action; in Studies 2a and 2b we observed an indirect effect such that reappraisal predicted lower negative emotion which in turn accounted for lower intentions to engage in political action; and Studies 3a and 3b provided experimental evidence for this indirect effect. These results suggest that effective emotion regulation like reappraisal may be beneficial in the short-run by helping restore emotional well-being after upsetting political events but may also be costly in the long-run by reducing the potential for productive political action. (PsycINFO Database Record.


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