What Parts of Reappraisal Make Us Feel Better? Dissociating the Generation of Reappraisals from Their Implementation

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Emotion regulation, Cognitive reappraisal, Negative reappraisal, Positive reappraisal


Although reappraisal has been shown to be a highly successfully emotion regulation strategy, it requires several sequential steps, and it is still unclear when in the reappraisal process emotion changes. We experimentally dissociated the generation of reappraisals from their implementation and hypothesized that the biggest emotional effects would occur during implementation. In Study 1, participants (N = 106) saw a negative image and generated either just positive reappraisals (GEN ++) or positive and negative reappraisals (GEN +-). They then saw the image again and implemented either their positive reappraisals (for the GEN ++ and half of the GEN +- trials) or negative reappraisals (for the other half of GEN +- trials). Although there were small and significant changes in emotion when generating reappraisals, the robust changes in emotion that are typically observed during reappraisal occurred during implementation. In Study 2 (N = 130), we directly replicated the findings from Study 1 and demonstrated that this small emotional effect from just generating reappraisals was not due to discounting the forthcoming implementation goal. In summary, for the first time, we successfully dissociated reappraisal generation from implementation and show that the biggest emotional effects occur during implementation. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding emotion regulation, the neural underpinnings of reappraisal, and the conditions for reappraisal success in clinical contexts.

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Copyright is held by The Society for Affective Science. User is responsible for all copyright compliance. This article was originally published as:

Waugh, C.E., Vlasenko, V.V. & McRae, K. (2022). What parts of reappraisal make us feel better? Dissociating the generation of reappraisals from their implementation. Affective Science 3, 653–661. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42761-022-00129-2

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The Society for Affective Science


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English (eng)


9 pgs

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559 KB

Publication Title

Affective Science



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