Emotion regulation choice: the role of environmental affordances

Which emotion regulation strategy one uses in a given context can have profound affective, cognitive, and social consequences. It is therefore important to understand the determinants of emotion regulation choice. Many prior studies have examined person-specific, internal determinants of emotion regulation choice. Recently, it has become clear that external variables that are properties of the stimulus can also influence emotion regulation choice. In the present research, we consider whether reappraisal affordances, defined as the opportunities for re-interpretation of a stimulus that are inherent in that stimulus, can shape individuals’ emotion regulation choices. We show that reappraisal affordances have stability across people and across time (Study 1), and are confounded with emotional intensity for a standardised set of picture stimuli (Study 2). Since emotional intensity has been shown to drive emotion regulation choice, we construct a context in which emotional intensity is separable from reappraisal affordances (Study 3) and use this context to show that reappraisal affordances powerfully influence emotion regulation choice even when emotional intensity and discrete emotions are taken into account (Study 4).