Read about the latest research on emotion from Psychological Science.
Jeremy A. Yip and Stéphane Côté
Can understanding the source of your emotions help you make better decisions? Participants were assessed for ability to understand emotions and were then told they would have to give a video-recorded speech (incidental anxiety condition) or prepare a grocery list (neutral condition). Each participant’s level of risk taking was then measured. The researchers found that participants in the incidental anxiety condition who had low emotion-understanding ability were less likely to take risks than were those with higher emotion-understanding ability. A follow-up study found that making participants in the incidental anxiety group aware of the source of their anxiety eliminated the effect of emotion-understanding ability on risk taking. The researchers suggest that the ability to understand emotions helps people determine the correct source of their emotions, thus preventing incidental emotions from biasing their current decisions.
Ravi Thiruchselvam, Greg Hajcak, and James J. Gross
Can selective attention be used to regulate emotional responses arising from events once those events have been encoded into working memory? Electroencephalogram data was collected while participants viewed negative and neutral images overlaid with circles. The circles were placed so that they highlighted especially neutral or negative portions of the images. Participants were asked to keep an entire image (including the circle) in working memory and then to focus only on the part of the image included in the circle. Researchers found that focusing on the neutral part of the image reduced both the amount of negative emotion participants reported and the neural measures of emotional reactivity. These findings suggest that selective attention alters emotional responses that arise from representations active within working memory.