This article is part of the Research Topic The Social Dimension of Emotion Regulation

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 03 July 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00259

Regulation of positive and negative emotion: effects of sociocultural context

  • 1Department of Clinical and Counseling Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA
  • 3Department of Anthropology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 4Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Previous research has demonstrated that the use of emotion regulation strategies can vary by sociocultural context. In a previous study, we reported changes in the use of two different emotion regulation strategies at an annual alternative cultural event, Burning Man (McRae et al., 2011). In this sociocultural context, as compared to typically at home, participants reported less use of expressive suppression (a strategy generally associated with maladaptive outcomes), and greater use of cognitive reappraisal (a strategy generally associated with adaptive outcomes). What remained unclear was whether these changes in self-reported emotion regulation strategy use were characterized by changes in the regulation of positive emotion, negative emotion, or both. We addressed this issue in the current study by asking Burning Man participants separate questions about positive and negative emotion. Using multiple datasets, we replicated our previous findings, and found that the decreased use of suppression is primarily driven by reports of decreased suppression of positive emotion at Burning Man. By contrast, the increased use of reappraisal is not characterized by differential reappraisal of positive and negative emotion at Burning Man. Moreover, we observed novel individual differences in the magnitude of these effects. The contextual changes in self-reported suppression that we observe are strongest for men and younger participants. For those who had previously attended Burning Man, we observed lower levels of self-reported suppression in both sociocultural contexts: Burning Man and typically at home. These findings have implications for understanding the ways in which certain sociocultural contexts may decrease suppression, and possibly minimize its associated maladaptive effects.

Keywords: emotion regulation, cognitive reappraisal, expressive suppression, Burning Man, social context, cultural context, positive affect, negative affect

Citation: Snyder SA, Heller SM, Lumian DS and McRae K (2013) Regulation of positive and negative emotion: effects of sociocultural context. Front. Psychol. 4:259. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00259

Received: 24 June 2012; Accepted: 19 April 2013;
Published online: 03 July 2013.

Edited by:

Vera Shuman, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Reviewed by:

Katherine K. Chen, City University of NY, USA
Mary H. Burleson, Arizona State University, USA

Copyright © 2013 Snyder, Heller, Lumian and McRae. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Kateri McRae, Department of Psychology, University of Denver, 2155 S. Race St., Denver, CO 80209, USA e-mail: kateri.mcrae@du.edu

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