Performance and learning goals for emotion regulation

Natalie Rusk, Maya Tamir, Fred Rothbaum*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Goal orientation theory is concerned with performance and learning goals in academic, athletic, and other ability areas. Here we examine performance and learning goals for emotion regulation. We define performance goals for emotion regulation as seeking to prove one's ability to manage emotions; learning goals for emotion regulation are defined as seeking to improve one's ability to manage emotions. In two studies, we tested the hypothesis that performance goals for emotion regulation would be associated with greater use of defensive emotion regulation strategies and depressive symptoms. Results from both studies showed that individuals with greater performance goals for emotion regulation reported higher levels of rumination and thought suppression and greater depressive symptoms, while individuals with greater learning goals reported greater use of cognitive reappraisal. The findings suggest that goals for emotion regulation may help explain individual differences in use of defensive versus constructive emotion regulation strategies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)444-460
Number of pages17
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported in part by a Faculty Research Awards Committee grant from Tufts University. The authors are grateful to Johnmarshall Reeve for his editorial guidance, and to Anna Drapkin, Lindsay Fogerty, Charlene Gay, Dominique Lieu, Linda Sullivan, and Eden Wall for their assistance with the research, and to Hee-Sun Lee and Kristen Bethke Wendell for advice on the initial draft.


  • Depression
  • Emotion regulation
  • Goal orientation
  • Performance goals
  • Rumination


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