It's worth the trouble: Stressor exposure is related to increased cognitive reappraisal ability

Stress Health. 2022 Aug;38(3):602-609. doi: 10.1002/smi.3101. Epub 2021 Oct 14.

Abstract

Recent theories propose moderate (compared to high or no) stressor exposure to promote emotion regulation capacities. More precisely, stressful situations are expected to serve as practice opportunities for cognitive reappraisal (CR), that is, the reinterpretation of a situation to alter its emotional impact. Accordingly, in this study, we expect an inverted U-shaped relationship between exposure to daily hassles and performance in a CR task, that is, best reappraisal ability in individuals with a history of moderate stressor exposure. Participants (N = 165) reported the number of daily hassles during the last week as indicator of stressor exposure and completed the Script-based Reappraisal Test (SRT). In the SRT, participants are presented with fear-eliciting scripts and instructed to either downregulate negative affect via reappraisal (reappraisal-trials) or react naturally (control-trials). Two measures indicate CR ability: (1) reappraisal effectiveness, that is, the difference between affective ratings in reappraisal- and control-trials and (2) reappraisal inventiveness, that is, the number of valid and categorically different reappraisal thoughts. Multiple regression analyses revealed positive linear, but not quadratic, relationships of exposure to daily hassles and both indicators of CR ability. Potential benefits of stressor exposure for emotion regulation processes are discussed.

Keywords: cognitive reappraisal; daily hassles; emotion regulation; resilience; stressor exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition* / physiology
  • Emotional Regulation*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Humans