Beliefs about emotion: implications for avoidance-based emotion regulation and psychological health

Krista De Castella*, Michael J. Platow, Maya Tamir, James J. Gross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations

Abstract

People’s beliefs about their ability to control their emotions predict a range of important psychological outcomes. It is not clear, however, whether these beliefs are playing a causal role, and if so, why this might be. In the current research, we tested whether avoidance-based emotion regulation explains the link between beliefs and psychological outcomes. In Study 1 (N = 112), a perceived lack of control over emotions predicted poorer psychological health outcomes (increased self-reported avoidance, lower well-being, and higher levels of clinical symptoms), and avoidance strategies indirectly explained these links between emotion beliefs and psychological health. In Study 2 (N = 101), we experimentally manipulated participants’ emotion beliefs by leading participants to believe that they struggled (low regulatory self-efficacy) or did not struggle (high regulatory self-efficacy) with controlling their emotions. Participants in the low regulatory self-efficacy condition reported increased intentions to engage in avoidance strategies over the next month and were more likely to avoid seeking psychological help. When asked if they would participate in follow-up studies, these participants were also more likely to display avoidance-based emotion regulation. These findings provide initial evidence for the causal role of emotion beliefs in avoidance-based emotion regulation, and document their impact on psychological health-related outcomes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)773-795
Number of pages23
JournalCognition and Emotion
Volume32
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 19 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
right or wrong answers. Participants first completed measures of beliefs about emotions, followed by the dependent variables: measures of cognitive and behavioural avoidance, well-being, and clinical symptoms. The presentation order for scales and items were randomised and all survey variables and data exclusions are reported in the text. Ethics approval for this project was obtained from the Australian National University Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC).

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Australian National University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Beliefs
  • avoidance
  • emotion regulation
  • implicit theories
  • psychological health

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