Individual differences in reappraisal effectiveness: the role of affective flexibility

Emotion. 2013 Apr;13(2):302-13. doi: 10.1037/a0029980. Epub 2012 Nov 19.


The present study examined the relation between a specific type of executive control and cognitive emotion regulation. The authors propose that successful reappraisal is related to "affective flexibility": The ability to flexibly attend to and disengage from emotional aspects of a situation or a stimulus. A new affective task-switching paradigm that required participants to shift between categorizing positive and negative affective pictures according to emotional or nonemotional features was used to assess individual differences in affective flexibility. The results showed that greater affective flexibility (less switch costs) predicted the ability to use reappraisal to down-regulate emotions in response to a sad film clip. In particular, more efficient shifts toward the neutral aspects of negative pictures and toward the emotional aspects of positive pictures were found to predict reappraisal ability. The results imply that executive control of emotional material is a capacity that is closely associated with effective reappraisal.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult