Emotion regulation to idiographic stimuli: Testing the Autobiographical Emotion Regulation Task
Abstract Mounting evidence suggests that the ability to regulate emotion is crucial for psychological well-being. However, one important limitation of prior emotion regulation studies is that they rely on standardized stimuli low in personal relevance. To address this limitation, the current study employed a novel event-related potential (ERP) paradigm designed to investigate the late positive potential (LPP) as a measure of emotional reactivity and regulation to idiographic stimuli in 49 young adults. The Autobiographical Emotion Regulation Task (AERT) is a word-viewing task in which participants identify neutral and emotionally-charged autobiographical memories and generate keywords unique to each memory. First, participants are instructed to simply view the keywords. Then, participants are presented with keywords from negative memories and are either instructed to react normally (react condition), or to use cognitive reappraisal to decrease negative emotion (reappraise condition). Results indicate that the LPP was potentiated when initially viewing keywords for negative compared to neutral memories. Furthermore, the LPP was reduced during reappraise compared to react trials, demonstrating successful down-regulation of neural activity to negative idiographic stimuli. These findings suggest that the AERT is a feasible and effective probe of emotion regulation to idiographic stimuli.