Cardiovascular costs of emotion suppression cross ethnic lines

Int J Psychophysiol. 2008 Oct;70(1):82-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.06.003. Epub 2008 Jun 22.


Previous research has shown that inhibiting emotion-expressive behavior (emotion suppression) leads to increased sympathetic activation of the cardiovascular system [Gross, J.J. and Levenson, R.W. (1993). Emotional suppression: physiology, self-report, and expressive behavior. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 64(6), 970-986]. Ethnic differences have been reported in how frequently suppression is used as an emotion regulation strategy [Gross, J.J. and John, O. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 85(2), 348-362]; however, it remains unknown whether there are ethnic differences in the physiological consequences of suppression. To test this, 168 participants from four ethnic groups (African American, Chinese American, European American, Mexican American) watched a disgust-eliciting film clip; half were instructed to suppress their emotions and half simply watched the film. Consistent with previous research, suppression was associated with decreased facial behavior, increased cardiovascular activation, and no impact on subjective emotional experience. Ethnicity failed to moderate these effects, indicating the generality of the cardiovascular consequences of emotion suppression across ethnic background.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Asian Americans
  • Cardiovascular System / innervation*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Culture
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology*
  • Plethysmography
  • Social Behavior
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology