A substantial body of research suggests that cognitive reappraisal is effective at improving momentary affect, but it remains unclear how reappraisal leads to these changes. We tested the quality of reappraisal as one potential mechanism.
A sample of 314 participants (Mage = 36.30; 51.0% female; 69.4% White) recruited online were instructed in the use of reappraisal and were asked to reappraise an upsetting memory for 5 min. Afterwards, participants rated the degree to which they used reappraisal during the task and independent raters coded the quality of participants’ written descriptions. Participants also rated the intensity of positive and negative affect before and after the memory task.
Reappraisal quality explained a significant proportion of the effect of reappraisal use on improvements in negative, ab = − 1.49, SE = .33, 95% CI [− 2.17, − .90], and positive affect, ab = 2.67, SE = .54, 95% CI [1.64, 3.79]. Depression symptom severity moderated these relations—the indirect effects of reappraisal quality were stronger among those with fewer depressive symptoms.
These results suggest the quality with which reappraisal is used is one way through which reappraisal predicts improvements in affect, especially among people lower in depressive symptoms. Our findings enhance our understanding of the process of reappraisal and offer potential targets for interventions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
McDonald’s omega is a more accurate and general expression of Cronbach’s alpha because it allows individual items to exhibit different loadings on an underlying single factor (i.e., McDonald’s omega does not assume essential tau-equivalence or unidimensionality but can be used to evaluate the plausibility of a single factor structure; Hayes & Coutts, 2020).
Because experiences of single negative emotions are roughly as common as blends of multiple negative emotions (Watson & Stanton, 2017) and multiple researchers have found that reappraisal may be differentially efficacious for different emotions (Demaree et al., 2006; Olatunji et al., 2017; Pasupathi et al., 2017; Southward et al., 2019), we re-ran our analyses with each specific negative emotion as an outcome (Tables S1–S5, Supplemental Materials).
We note that the (lack of) a temporal relation between reappraisal use and reappraisal quality (the a path) may more accurately be represented by the covariance between these variables. However, given the larger literature on interpreting mediation analyses and the relative ease of interpreting products of regression coefficients compared to products of regression coefficients and covariances, we have opted to conduct mediation analyses and explicitly note when these analyses do and do not imply causal and/or temporal relations.
PROCESS only calculates an index of moderated mediation for models with a moderator of one leg of a mediational path. Thus, after we reviewed the results of Model 59, we used Model 14 to calculate the index of moderated mediation. Model 14 was selected because, in this model, the moderator only moderates the b path (i.e., reappraisal quality to change in negative affect).
This index of moderated mediation is also based on Model 14 in PROCESS, as in the negative affect results.
Adler, A. D., Conklin, L. R., & Strunk, D. R. (2013). Quality of coping skills predicts depressive symptom reactivity over repeated stressors. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(12), 1228–1238. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.21993
Aldao, A., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Schweizer, S. (2010). Emotion-regulation strategies across psychopathology: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(2), 217–237. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2009.11.004
Barber, J. P., & DeRubeis, R. J. (1992). The Ways of Responding: A scale to assess compensatory skills taught in cognitive therapy. Behavioral Assessment, 14(1), 93–115.
Daros, A. R., Guevara, M. A., Uliaszek, A. A., McMain, S. F., & Ruocco, A. C. (2018). Cognitive emotion regulation strategies in borderline personality disorder: Diagnostic comparisons and associations with potentially harmful behaviors. Psychopathology, 51(2), 83–95. https://doi.org/10.1159/000487008
Demaree, H. A., Robinson, J. L., Pu, J., & Allen, J. J. B. (2006). Strategies actually employed during response-focused emotion regulation research: Affective and physiological consequences. Cognition & Emotion, 20(8), 1248–1260. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930500405303
Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 271–299. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-26126.96.36.1991
Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(2), 348–362. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.528
Gruber, J., Hay, A. C., & Gross, J. J. (2014). Rethinking emotion: Cognitive reappraisal is an effective positive and negative emotion regulation strategy in bipolar disorder. Emotion, 14(2), 388–396. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035249
Hayes, A. F. (2017). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.
Hayes, A. F., & Coutts, J. J. (2020). Use Omega Rather than Cronbach’s Alpha for Estimating Reliability. But…. Communication Methods and Measures, 14(1), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/19312458.2020.1718629
Hayes, A. F., & Krippendorff, K. (2007). Answering the call for a standard reliability measure for coding data. Communication Methods and Measures, 1(1), 77–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/19312450709336664
IBM Corp. (2019). IBM SPSS Statistics for Macintosh, version 26.0. IBM Corp.
Jacobson, N. C., Evey, K. J., Wright, A. G. C., & Newman, M. G. (2020). Integration of discrete and global structures of affect across three large samples: Specific emotions within-persons and global affect between-persons. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/gb5up
Katz, B. A., Lustig, N., Assis, Y., & Yovel, I. (2017). Measuring emotion regulation in the here and now: The development and validation of the State Emotion Regulation Inventory (SERI). Psychological Assessment, 29(10), 1235–1248. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000420
Krieg, E. F. (1999). Biases induced by coarse measurement scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 59(5), 749–766. https://doi.org/10.1177/00131649921970125
Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology (3rd ed.). Sage.
Liu, D. Y., & Thompson, R. J. (2017). Selection and implementation of emotion regulation strategies in major depressive disorder: An integrative review. Clinical Psychology Review, 57, 183–194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2017.07.004
MacKinnon, D. P., Krull, J. L., & Lockwood, C. M. (2000). Equivalence of the mediation, confounding and suppression effect. Prevention Science, 1(4), 173–181. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1026595011371
McRae, K., Ciesielski, B., & Gross, J. J. (2012). Unpacking cognitive reappraisal: Goals, tactics, and outcomes. Emotion, 12(2), 250–255. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026351
Millgram, Y., Joormann, J., Huppert, J. D., & Tamir, M. (2015). Sad as a matter of choice? Emotion-regulation goals in depression. Psychological Science, 26(8), 1216–1228. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615583295
Necka, E. A., Cacioppo, S., Norman, G. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2016). Measuring the prevalence of problematic respondent behaviors among MTurk, campus, and community participants. PLoS One, 11(6), e0157732. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157732
Olatunji, B. O., Berg, H. E., & Zhao, Z. (2017). Emotion regulation of fear and disgust: Differential effects of reappraisal and suppression. Cognition & Emotion, 31(2), 403–410. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2015.1110117
Pasupathi, M., Wainryb, C., Mansfield, C. D., & Bourne, S. (2017). The feeling of the story: Narrating to regulate anger and sadness. Cognition & Emotion, 31(3), 444–461. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2015.1127214
Quigley, L., & Dobson, K. S. (2014). An examination of trait, spontaneous and instructed emotion regulation in dysphoria. Cognition & Emotion, 28(4), 622–635. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2013.848786
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1(3), 385–401. https://doi.org/10.1177/014662167700100306
Rowlands, L., Coetzer, R., & Turnbull, O. (2020). This time it’s personal: Reappraisal after acquired brain injury. Cognition & Emotion, 35(2), 305–323. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2020.1839384
Rusting, C. L., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1998). Regulating responses to anger: Effects of rumination and distraction on angry mood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(3), 790–803. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2060
Sauer, C., Sheppes, G., Lackner, H. K., Arens, E. A., Tarrasch, R., & Barnow, S. (2016). Emotion regulation choice in female patients with borderline personality disorder: Findings from self-reports and experimental measures. Psychiatry Research, 242, 375–384. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.04.113
Smoski, M. J., LaBar, K. S., & Steffens, D. C. (2014). Relative effectiveness of reappraisal and distraction in regulation emotion in late-life depression. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22(9), 898–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2013.01.070
Song, Y., Jordan, J. I., Shaffer, K. A., Wing, E. K., McRae, K., & Waugh, C. (2019). Effects of incidental positive emotion and cognitive reappraisal on affective responses to negative stimuli. Cognition & Emotion, 33(6), 1155–1168. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2018.1541789
Southward, M. W., & Cheavens, J. S. (2020). Quality or quantity? A multistudy analysis of emotion regulation skills deficits associated with borderline personality disorder. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 11(1), 24–35. https://doi.org/10.1037/per0000357
Southward, M. W., Heiy, J. E., & Cheavens, J. S. (2019). Emotions as context: Do the naturalistic effects of emotion regulation strategies depend on the regulated emotion? Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 38(6), 451–474. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2019.38.6.451
Southward, M. W., Sauer-Zavala, S., & Cheavens, J. S. (2021). Specifying the mechanisms and targets of emotion regulation: A translational framework from affective science to psychological treatment. Science and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1037/cps0000003
Strunk, D. R., DeRubeis, R. J., Chiu, A. W., & Alvarez, J. (2007). Patients’ competence in and performance of cognitive therapy skills: Relation to the reduction of relapse risk following treatment for depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75(4), 523–530. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.75.4.523
Strunk, D. R., Adler, A. D., & Hollars, S. N. (2013). Cognitive therapy skills predict cognitive reactivity to sad mood following cognitive therapy for depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37(6), 1214–1219. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-013-9570-z
Suri, G., Sheppes, G., Young, G., Abraham, D., McRae, K., & Gross, J. J. (2018). Emotion regulation choice: The role of environmental affordances. Cognition & Emotion, 32(5), 963–971. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2017.1371003
Tamir, M., Halperin, E., Porat, R., Bigman, Y. E., & Hasson, Y. (2019). When there’s a will, there’s a way: Disentangling the effects of goals and means in emotion regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(5), 795–816. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000232
Vilagut, G., Forero, C. G., Barbaglia, G., & Alonso, J. (2016). Screening for depression in the general population with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D): A systematic review with meta-analysis. PLoS One, 11(5), e0155431. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155431
Vishkin, A., Hasson, Y., Millgram, Y., & Tamir, M. (2020). One size does not fit all: Tailoring cognitive reappraisal to different emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 46(3), 469–484. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167219861432
Watson, D., & Stanton, K. (2017). Emotion blends and mixed emotions in the hierarchical structure of affect. Emotion Review, 9(2), 99–104. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073916639659
Webb, T. L., Miles, E., & Sheeran, P. (2012). Dealing with feeling: A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of strategies derived from the process model of emotion regulation. Psychological Bulletin, 138(4), 775–808. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027600
Weber, H., Loureiro de Assunção, V., Martin, C., Westmeyer, H., & Geisler, F. C. (2014). Reappraisal inventiveness: The ability to create different reappraisals of critical situations. Cognition & Emotion, 28(2), 345–360. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2013.832152
Wu, X. F., Guo, T. T., Tang, T. T., Shi, B. G., & Luo, J. (2017). Role of creativity in the effectiveness of cognitive reappraisal. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1598. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01598
Wu, X. F., Guo, T. T., Tan, T. T., Zhang, W. C., Qin, S. Z., Fan, J., & Luo, J. (2019). Superior emotional regulating effects of creative cognitive reappraisal. NeuroImage, 200, 540–551. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.06.061
Yin, S., Gibbons, M. B. C., Diehl, C., Gallop, R., & Crits-Christoph, P. (2018). A self-report version of the Ways of Responding: Reliability and validity in a clinical sample. Psychotherapy Research, 28(4), 581–592. https://doi.org/10.1080/10503307.2016.1233367
Yoon, S., & Rottenberg, J. (2019). Why do people with depression use faulty emotion regulation strategies? Emotion Review, 12(2), 118–128. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073919890670
Yzerbyt, V., Muller, D., Batailler, C., & Judd, C. M. (2018). New recommendations for testing indirect effects in mediational models: The need to report and test component paths. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(6), 929–943. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000132
Zeier, P., Sandner, M., & Wessa, M. (2020). Script-based reappraisal test introducing a new paradigm to investigate the effect of reappraisal inventiveness on reappraisal effectiveness. Cognition & Emotion, 34(4), 793–799. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2019.1663153
This work was partially supported by The Ohio State University Alumni Grants for Graduate Research and Scholarship (to Anne C. Holmes). The funding source had no involvement in the conduct or preparation of the research.
Conflict of Interest
Matthew W. Southward, Anne C. Holmes, Daniel R. Strunk and Jennifer S. Cheavens declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
All study procedures were approved by The Ohio State University’s Institutional Review Board.
Informed consent was obtained from all participants individually prior to their engagement in study procedures.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Southward, M.W., Holmes, A.C., Strunk, D.R. et al. More and Better: Reappraisal Quality Partially Explains the Effect of Reappraisal Use on Changes in Positive and Negative Affect. Cogn Ther Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-021-10255-z
- Negative affect
- Positive affect