Understanding the Social Effects of Emotion Regulation: The Mediating Role of Authenticity for Individual Differences in Suppression

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Abstract

Individuals differ in the strategies they use to regulate their emotions (e.g., suppression, reappraisal), and these regulatory strategies can differentially influence social outcomes. However, the mechanisms underlying these social effects remain to be specified. We examined one potential mediator that arises directly from emotion-regulatory effort (expression of positive emotion), and another mediator that does not involve emotion processes per se, but instead results from the link between regulation and self-processes (subjective inauthenticity). Across three studies, only inauthenticity mediated the link between habitual use of suppression and poor social functioning (lower relationship satisfaction, lower social support). These findings replicated across individuals socialized in Western and East Asian cultural contexts, younger and older adults, when predicting social functioning concurrently and a decade later, and even when broader adjustment was controlled. Thus, the social costs of suppression do not seem to be due to reduced positive emotion expression but rather the incongruence between inner-self and outer-behavior. Reappraisal was not consistently related to social functioning. Implications of these findings for emotion processes, self processes, and interpersonal relationships are discussed.

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