Evidence suggests that explicit reappraisal has limited regulatory effects on high-intensity emotions, mainly due to the depletion of cognitive resources occupied by the high-intensity emotional stimulus itself. The implicit form of reappraisal has proved to be resource-saving and therefore might be an ideal strategy to achieve the desired regulatory effect in high-intensity situations. In this study, we explored the regulatory effect of explicit and implicit reappraisal when participants encountered low- and high-intensity negative images. The subjective emotional rating indicated that both explicit and implicit reappraisal down-regulated negative experiences, irrespective of intensity. However, the amplitude of the parietal late positive potential (LPP; a neural index of experienced emotional intensity) showed that only implicit reappraisal had significant regulatory effects in the high-intensity context, though both explicit and implicit reappraisal successfully reduced the emotional neural responses elicited by low-intensity negative images. Meanwhile, implicit reappraisal led to a smaller frontal LPP amplitude (an index of cognitive cost) compared to explicit reappraisal, indicating that the implementation of implicit reappraisal consumes limited cognitive control resources. Furthermore, we found a prolonged effect of implicit emotion regulation introduced by training procedures. Taken together, these findings not only reveal that implicit reappraisal is suitable to relieve high-intensity negative experiences as well as neural responses, but also highlight the potential benefit of trained implicit regulation in clinical populations whose frontal control resources are limited.
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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (32271102, 31970980, and 31920103009), the Major Project of the National Social Science Foundation (20&ZD153), the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Institute of Brain Science (2022SHIBS0003), and the Guangdong Key Project (2018B030335001).
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Zhang, Y., Li, S., Gao, K. et al. Implicit, But Not Explicit, Emotion Regulation Relieves Unpleasant Neural Responses Evoked by High-Intensity Negative Images. Neurosci. Bull. (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12264-023-01036-7
- Cognitive reappraisal
- Implicit emotion regulation
- Emotional intensity
- Late positive potential