Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 1283–1297 | Cite as

Neural and behavioral effects of regulating emotional responses to errors during an implicit racial bias task

  • Meredith P. Levsen
  • Bruce D. Bartholow


Affect regulation plays a key role in several theories of racial bias reduction. Here, we tested whether engaging in emotion regulation strategies while performing an implicit racial bias task (Weapons Identification Task; WIT) would alter neural and behavioral manifestations of bias. Participants either suppressed or reappraised in a positive light the distress associated with making errors during the WIT, while an electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded. We hypothesized that engaging in emotion regulation strategies would reduce the distress associated with making errors indicative of bias, resulting in smaller error-related negativity (ERN) amplitude during errors and increased expression of racial bias. Results of within-subjects comparisons (Experiment 1) generally supported these predictions. However, when emotion regulation strategies were manipulated between subjects (Experiment 2) there was no effect of suppression or reappraisal on bias expression. Across both experiments, engaging in emotion regulation led to larger ERNs for errors occurring on Black- relative to White-primed trials. In addition, a number of significant order effects were observed, indicating important differences in the effects of engaging in emotion regulation strategies when those strategies are attempted in participants’ first versus second block of trials. No such order effects were evident when a second trial block was completed with no emotion regulation instructions. Findings are discussed in terms of the need for greater specificity in experimental tests of emotion regulation on error processing and cognitive performance.


ERN Emotion Regulation Control Racial bias 

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 899 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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