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Title: Emotion Naming Impedes Both Cognitive Reappraisal and Mindful Acceptance Strategies of Emotion Regulation

Friends and therapists often encourage people in distress to say how they feel (i.e., name their emotions) with the hope that identifying their emotions will help them cope. Although lay and some psychological theories posit that emotion naming should facilitate subsequent emotion regulation, there is little research directly testing this question. Here, we report on two experimental studies that test how naming the emotions evoked by aversive images impacts subsequent regulation of those emotions. In study 1 (N= 80), participants were randomly assigned into one of four between-subjects conditions in which they either (i) passively observed aversive images, (ii) named the emotions that these images made them feel, (iii) regulated their emotions by reappraising the meaning of images, or (iv) both named and regulated their emotions. Analyses of self-reported negative affect revealed that emotion naming impeded emotion regulation via reappraisal. Participants who named their emotions before reappraising reported feelingworsethan those who regulated without naming. Study 2 (N= 60) replicated these findings in a within-participants design, demonstrated that emotion naming also impeded regulation via mindful acceptance, and showed that observed effects were unrelated to a measure of social desirability, thereby mitigating the concern of experimenter demand. Together, these studies show that the impact of emotion naming on emotion regulation opposes common intuitions: instead of facilitating emotion regulation via reappraisal or acceptance, constructing an instance of a specific emotion category by giving it a name may “crystalize” one’s affective experience and make it more resistant to modification.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Affective Science
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 187-198
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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