Remembering the silver lining: reappraisal and positive bias in memory for emotion

Cogn Emot. 2012;26(5):871-84. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2011.625403. Epub 2012 Jan 31.


Reappraisal and distraction, unlike suppression, are known to decrease the intensity of negative emotion in the short term. Little is known about long-term characteristics associated with emotion regulation strategies, however. In a longitudinal study, we examined the relation between the strategies people reported using to regulate emotions during a stressful situation and their later memory for their emotions. Students in Italy rated the intensity of positive and negative emotions they were experiencing as they prepared for their high school exit exam. They also rated the extent to which they were regulating emotion using reappraisal, distraction, and suppression. Six weeks later, students recalled their pre-exam emotions. The more students reported engaging in reappraisal before the exam, the more they overestimated positive emotion and underestimated negative emotion when recalling their experience. The association between reported reappraisal and memory bias was partially mediated by positive changes over time in students' appraisals of the exam preparation experience. Reports of engaging in distraction and suppression were not associated with memory bias. Because remembered emotion guides future choices, these findings suggest that reappraisal is a highly adaptive strategy for coping with stressful situations, not only in the short run, but also in the long run.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Test Anxiety Scale / statistics & numerical data