Temporal Effects of Top-Down Emotion Regulation Strategies on Affect, Working Memory Load, and Attentional Deployment



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Prior research has elucidated the effectiveness of top-down emotion regulation strategies of cognitive reappraisal (CR) and guided attention (GA) at minimizing negative feelings while also being cognitively demanding. However, the mechanisms underlying these processes are not well understood. The current study uses eye-tracking to explore the temporal effects of two top-down emotion regulation strategies–cognitive regulation and guided attention–on attentional deployment, working memory load, and emotion regulation effectiveness. 54 participants (Mage=25.42±5.01yrs) completed an emotion regulation task while measuring pupillometry and gaze fixations. During the task, participants implemented CR or GA strategies while viewing negative images then rated their feelings. Two-way, repeated-measures ANOVA inferential statistical procedure was used to separately examine effects of strategy (guided attention vs cognitive reappraisal), time (brief, 4s vs sustained, 8s), and strategy by time interactions on emotion regulation effectiveness (self-reported affect), working memory load (inter-trial change in pupil diameter), and attentional deployment (% of total trial fixations on AOI). Analyses revealed sustained duration trials (8s) yielded greater fixations to negative stimuli as compared to brief duration trials (4s), while emotion regulation effectiveness was not significantly changed. CR resulted in higher fixations to negative AOI than GA yet was more effective at regulating emotion. In conclusion, this work suggests that implementing top-down emotion regulation may sustain emotion regulation effectiveness, and CR particularly maintains emotion regulation effectiveness. A better understanding of the temporal effects of top-down emotion regulation strategies on affect, attentional deployment, and working memory could reveal more insight into differences in interpreting and behaviorally responding to emotional stimuli.



Emotion Regulation, Attentional Deployment, Working Memory, Affect