The role of emotional memory in reappraising negative self-referent thoughts

Ines Nieto, Ernst H. W. Koster, Jonas Everaert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Background 

Reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that has been linked to positive emotional and health outcomes. However, the basic cognitive mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of reappraisal remain understudied and not well understood. To address this limitation, the present study examined whether long-term memory processes, including emotional memory accessibility, memory bias, and overgeneral memory, are related to individual differences in reappraisal effectiveness.

Methods 

All participants (N = 101) completed a memory accessibility and sentence completion memory task to measure bias, specificity, and accessibility of emotional memories. Next, participants completed an emotion regulation task requesting them to either attend to or reappraise negative self-referent thoughts.

Results 

The results of the linear regression models showed that memory bias, but not memory specificity or accessibility, accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in the effectiveness of reappraisal. Retrieval of more negative memories was related to lower reductions in negative mood.

Conclusions 

These findings suggest that emotional long-term memory processes, and particularly memory bias, may modulate downregulation of negative emotions when implementing reappraisal. These insights could be leveraged to guide psychological treatments using cognitive techniques that rely on successful reappraisal use.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • Reappraisal
  • Memory
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Cognitive Bias

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