Individual differences in self-reported self-control predict successful emotion regulation

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Abstract

Both self-control and emotion regulation enable individuals to adapt to external circumstances and social contexts, and both are assumed to rely on the overlapping neural resources. Here, we tested whether high self-reported self-control is related to successful emotion regulation on the behavioral and neural level. One hundred eight participants completed three self-control questionnaires and regulated their negative emotions during functional magnetic resonance imaging using reappraisal (distancing). Trait self-control correlated positively with successful emotion regulation both subjectively and neurally, as indicated by online ratings of negative emotions and functional connectivity strength between the amygdala and prefrontal areas, respectively. This stronger overall connectivity of the left amygdala was related to more successful subjective emotion regulation. Comparing amygdala activity over time showed that high self-controllers successfully maintained down-regulation of the left amygdala over time, while low self-controllers failed to down-regulate towards the end of the experiment. This indicates that high self-controllers are better at maintaining a motivated state supporting emotion regulation over time. Our results support assumptions concerning a close relation of self-control and emotion regulation as two domains of behavioral control. They further indicate that individual differences in functional connectivity between task-related brain areas directly relate to differences in trait self-control.

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