When regulating negative emotional reactions, one goal is to reduce physiological reactions. However, not all regulation strategies succeed in doing that. We tested whether heart rate biofeedback helped participants reduce physiological reactions in response to negative and neutral pictures. When viewing neutral pictures, participants could regulate their heart rate whether the heart rate feedback was real or not. In contrast, when viewing negative pictures, participants could regulate heart rate only when feedback was real. Ratings of task success paralleled heart rate. Participants' general level of anxiety, emotion awareness, or cognitive emotion regulation strategies did not influence the results. Our findings show that accurate online heart rate biofeedback provides an efficient way to down-regulate autonomic physiological reactions when encountering negative stimuli.
Keywords: Arousal control; Biofeedback; Cardiac control; Emotion regulation; Heart rate.
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