Effortful Emotion Regulation as a Unique Form of Cybernetic Control

Maya Tamir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Emotion regulation is important for psychological well-being, yet we know relatively little about why, when, and how hard people try to regulate emotions. This article seeks to address these motivational issues by considering effortful emotion regulation as a unique form of cybernetic control. In any domain of self-regulation, emotions serve as indices of progress in regulation and inform the expected value of regulation. In emotion regulation, however, emotions also serve as the very target of regulation. This interdependence gives rise to ironic processes that may render people less likely to exert effort in emotion regulation, precisely when they need it most. The proposed analysis complements and extends existing theories of emotion regulation, sheds new light on available findings, carries implications for psychopathology and well-being, and points to new hypotheses that could lead to theoretical and applied advances in the field.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)94-117
Number of pages24
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank Gal Sheppes, Wil Cunningham, Allon Vishkin, Yael Millgram, and Tony Gutentag for comments on earlier versions of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • emotion
  • emotion regulation
  • happiness
  • motivation
  • psychopathology
  • self-regulation
  • well-being


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