Emotion Regulation: Antecedents and Well-Being
Outcomes of Cognitive Reappraisal and Expressive
Suppression in Cross-Cultural Samples
Silje Marie Haga Æ Æ Pa ˚l Kraft Æ Æ Emma-Kate Corby
Published online: 23 November 2007
? Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007
and successful emotion regulation is necessary for adaptive functioning. However, people
are often unsuccessful in regulating their emotions. We investigated the use of cognitive
reappraisal and expressive suppression in 489 university students in Norway, Australia,
and the United States and how these strategies related to measures of well-being (affect,
life satisfaction, and depressed mood). Data was collected by means of selfadministered
questionnaires. The major aims of the study were to begin to explore the prevalence of use
of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression across gender, age and culture, pos-
sible antecedents of emotion regulation strategies, and the influence of emotion regulation
upon well-being. Results showed that the use of emotion regulation strategies varied across
age, gender and culture. Private self-consciousness (self-reflection and insight) was found
to be a central antecedent for the use of cognitive reappraisal. Use of emotion regulation
strategies predicted well-being outcomes, also after the effect of extraversion and neu-
roticism had been controlled for. Generally, increased use of cognitive reappraisal
predicted increased levels of positive well-being outcomes, while increased use of
expressive suppression predicted increased levels of negative well-being outcomes.
Habitual emotional state is a predictor of long-term health and life expectancy
Affect ? Satisfaction with life ? Depressed mood
Emotion regulation ? Cognitive reappraisal ? Expressive suppression ?
There is little doubt that emotions are quintessential to humans. They permeate almost
every aspect of our lives insofar as they guide our behavior to fit with contextual demands,
motivate change and facilitate learning, inform us when to fight or flight, and serve fun-
damental social functions (Gross 1999). As social beings, there is the invariable need for us
to shape our emotions to fit with contextual demands, to be precise; we must continuously
S. M. Haga (&) ? P. Kraft ? E.-K. Corby
Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1094, Oslo 0317, Norway
J Happiness Stud (2009) 10:271–291
regulate our emotions. Undeniably, the capacity to successfully regulate our emotional
responses to aversive events is a prerequisite for adaptive functioning. In fact, a large
proportion of psychopathology is characterized by maladaptive emotion regulation and
consequently emotion disturbance (Gross et al. 2006; Gratz and Roemer 2004; Rottenberg
and Gross 2003). An emerging literature has started to examine what emotion regulation
strategies people commonly employ. This is imperative as findings suggest substantial
parts of the population to be less than successful in regulating their emotions. Moreover, it
becomes paramount to determine why people use particular strategies, and how different
emotion regulation strategies impact upon well-being.
1.1 The Manifestation of Affective Science
Affective science arose in the 1980s as a distinct realm of psychological study and with it a
resurgence and new impetus in the study of emotion. It embarked upon the challenge of
determining what characterize emotion concepts (Gross 1999), and it focused specifically
on how emotions are generated and regulated. In the wake of affective science there has
been a shift towards a standardized taxonomy offering researchers a common ground on
which to base their research (Gross 1999; Rottenberg and Gross 2003). According to a
consensual process model of emotion that emerged, emotions were thought to be initiated
as we evaluate emotion cues; that is, emotions arise as we feel that something meaningful
happens to us (Gross 1999, 2002; Mennin et al. 2002). However, these emotions do not
only make us feel something, they also encourage us to take action and they bring about a
coordinated set of behavioral, experiential, and physiological response tendencies that
combined influence how we meet professed challenges.
It is important not to disregard that while emotions are generally functional in guiding
our behavior, they can be misleading. And while emotions make it likely for us to respond
in a particular fashion, the way we respond to a problem is not predetermined by our
emotions, and it is precisely this malleability that allows us to regulate our emotions (Gross
2002; Miles and Gross 1999). Finally, it is important to note that emotion-generation and-
regulation are thought to be concurrent processes; the initial experience of an emotion,
representing the response tendency, may be modulated in various ways over time as it goes
through a generative process during which the original experience of the emotion may be
subjected to updated appraisals or reinterpretations. Conversely, one may choose to not
reappraise an initial emotion experience, but rather simply suppress the emotional
expression that results. Thus, both observable and unobservable emotions have in one way
or another already been regulated.
1.2 Emotion Regulation—Two Central Strategies
Emotion regulation1refers to individuals’ attempt to ‘‘influence which emotions they
have, when they have them, and how these emotions are experienced and expressed’’
(Gross et al. 2006, p. 3). Most definitions reflect that individuals take action either to
maintain or to alter the intensity of emotion, or to prolong or shorten the emotional
1Herein, the term emotion regulation is used consistent with John and Gross’ (2004) definition. Other
researchers, e.g. Larsen and Prizmic (2004), have used different terms, for example affect regulation, to
describe the same phenomenon.
272S. M. Haga et al.
experience (Larsen and Prizmic 2004). As the ways in which we regulate our emotions
and deal with daily obstacles ultimately affect both our physical and mental health and
hence our well-being, we ought to pick our emotion regulatory strategies carefully.
Because some emotion regulatory strategies have been found to be maladaptive, it is not
sufficient to merely regulate emotions; the way in which it is done matters (John and
Gross 2004). Although there are numerous strategies to choose from, this paper will in
accordance with much of the recent research, focus on two different strategies; cognitive
reappraisal and expressive suppression. The reason for this is that cognitive reappraisal
and expressive suppression respectively target the two most reported objectives of emo-
tion regulation; namely, emotional experience and expression (Gross et al. 2006).
Cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression represent two common strategies that
people use; both entail a down-regulation of emotion. Nevertheless, their means to the
same end vary considerably (Gross 2002). Whereas cognitive reappraisal, being a form of
cognitive change, is thought of as an antecedent-focused strategy, expressive suppression is
referred to as a response-focused emotion regulation strategy (Gross 1998a). What that
means is that cognitive reappraisal happens early in the emotion-generative process; thus
altering the trajectory of emotion before the emotional response has been fully generated.
An example would be when someone makes a hurtful remark and one tries to see how the
person probably did not mean to be hurtful, thus, modifying both the emotion experience
and response tendency by means of reinterpretation or reappraisal. Expressive suppression,
in contrast, occurs late in the emotion-generative process and merely modifies the
behavioral expression of the emotion (John and Gross 2004). A typical example is when
one tries to hide that one is feeling sad by putting on a smiley face.
1.3 Emotion Regulation—Are There Cross-Cultural Differences?
While little is known about how individual differences relate to the experience and
expression of emotion (Gross 1999), even less is known about the possible existence of
cultural differences. To be sure, much of the emphasis in the field has been to establish
universality; research examining differences has only recently appeared. Thus currently, a
cutting edge area that is facing emotion research concerns the effect of context on emotion
regulation. Herein, two specific issues on which research has been warranted (Larsen and
Prizmic 2004) are addressed; namely whether there are cultural differences in the use of
emotion-regulatory strategies, and whether the strategies relate similarly to well-being
across cultures. Although culture is a term often used in psychology, the understanding of
what it entails is complicated, yet vague, and the study of culture and emotion is an area
that is only half-way to a full development of empirical studies. Herein the term culture is
used as Schweder (1993) defines it. He bases his definition on the basic premise that culture
is multi-componential and is defined by values, language, discourse, and concepts, such as
the media and the constitution. He argues that these concepts and discourses and the like,
are used as means of informing people of norms of rights and wrongs. He further upholds
that culture creates the human psyche by defining emotions and that emotions create
culture; thus engaging in a bidirectional relationship in which culture and psyche are
making each other out. Others (Helman 2002; Nussbaum 2001) have similarly argued that
the cultural discourse affects well-being, both emotional and physical, and also what
emotional judgments are being made; thus illustrating an apparent effect of culture on
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being273
Although cross-cultural studies typically explore differences between eastern and
western cultures, herein a comparison will be made between Norway, Australia, and the
United States. Whilst each of these countries scores high on Individualism scales (Hofstede
1991), each also has different sets of cultural norms and values which will potentially
affect the strategies individuals utilize to regulate their emotions. For instance, whereas
emoting high positive expression and assertiveness are suggested to be pivotal in American
culture (Tsai and Levenson 1997), a more subdued characteristic has traditionally been
valued in Norwegian culture due to ‘‘Jante-loven’’2(Jespersen 1962). However, while
Americans value the expression of positive affect and assertiveness, their perspective on
the expression of negative emotions is not as clear, and the implications for emotion
regulation is thus not obvious as most emotion regulation episodes (81%) concern negative
emotions (Gross et al. 2006). For instance, if the tendency to express positive emotions is
greatly valued, it may encourage Americans to regulate their negative emotions by sup-
pressing them, which, in turn, may affect their well-being negatively as suppression is
suggested to be a less healthy strategy. Or conversely, perhaps the Americans will be
motivated to reappraise negative response tendencies, before they are manifested, into
something positive by means of cognitive reappraisal. Even less is known about how
Australians view the expression of emotions, nevertheless it is suggested that Australians
value display of affection, though more so among women than men, however the
expression of negative affect is not clear (www.latrobe.edu.au). And finally, perhaps
cultural norms merely influence the discourse and representation of emotion, but not the
experience and expression of emotion. These are obviously important questions for
research on emotion and culture in psychology as they may shed light upon how contextual
norms can affect the expression or experience of emotions or both. If both are affected that
might suggest that cultural norms of emotional expression may affect how people regulate
their emotions, which ultimately affects their well-being.
1.4 Emotion Regulation—Are There Individual Differences?
Grant et al. (2002) suggest that private self-consciousness3and the subordinate constructs
of self-reflection and insight may constitute key factors in the self- and emotion-regulatory
process that underlie the creation of behaviour change. Feldman Barrett et al. (2001)
similarly uphold that people’s ability to know exactly how they feel and differentiate
between various emotions inform them about what steps to take to change how they feel as
the evoked emotion brings with it a behavioural repertoire for dealing with the situation.
Not knowing precisely how one feels, in contrast, makes it hard to know what to do in
order to modify unpleasant emotions. In their chapter on emotion and emotional aware-
ness, Monsen and Monsen (1999) likewise stress the central role of self-consciousness.
Specifically, they argue that lower self-consciousness disrupts the adaptive functions of
emotion in that it first makes an individual less able to determine the meaning emotions
carry, and second, motives to take action are bequeathed vague. That is, the person remains
unaware of why he or she precedes in the way he or she does.
2The law of Jante (Janteloven) represents a cultural norm or ‘‘law’’ that has traditionally ruled the Scan-
dinavian, and particularly the Norwegian, mentality (Jespersen 1962).
3The terms private self-consciousness and self-reflection and insight are used interchangeably in the
present paper. That is, when the term private self-consciousness is used it refers to both self-reflection and
274S. M. Haga et al.
Research (Ekman 1992 in Grant et al. 2002; Salovey et al. 1993, 1995) suggests that
people differ in their ability to attend to, process, and act on their emotions, and they
engage in self-reflection in a number of ways. Moreover, the ability to reflect over own
emotions and differentiate between discrete emotions does not only vary between indi-
viduals but also within any one person across contexts (Feldman Barrett et al. 2001).
Importantly, however, Monsen and Monsen (1999) have made the claim that a person’s
level of self-consciousness is not static and may change with time. It has been suggested
that individuals who find it easier to parse between emotional experiences are at an
advantage in regulating their emotions in that they more frequently regulate their negative
emotions using a range of strategies. What has not been explored and is thus warranted,
however, is whether the ability to differentiate and reflect upon emotions influences the use
of emotion regulation strategies. In the present study, a newly validated measure of private
self-consciousness (Grant et al. 2002), assessing self-reflection and insight, was included to
examine the influence of private self-consciousness on the use of emotion-regulatory
strategies. It was theorized that individuals who demonstrate higher levels of self-reflection
and insight will regulate their emotions more successfully and hence demonstrate greater
well-being. As cognitive reappraisal is thought to represent a healthy emotion regulation
strategy, private self-consciousness is expected to predict greater use of cognitive reap-
praisal and lesser use of expressive suppression.
Global personality characteristics, particularly the traits of extraversion and neuroti-
cism, have been studied meticulously and proposed as strong predictors of well-being
(DeNeve 1999; Schimmack et al. 2004). Whereas neuroticism is positively correlated with
increased levels of depressive symptoms and hopelessness, and negatively with positive
emotions, the opposite is repeatedly found for extraversion (Chioqueta and Stiles 2005). In
the present study, however, the primary aim was not to examine the benefits that accrue to
those who are extraverted, nor observe the detrimental effects of neuroticism. Rather,
extraversion and neuroticism were considered specifically with respect to emotion regu-
lation strategies. Additionally, the study of the relationship between these personality traits
and well-being outcomes were not part of the major aims of the present research. Rather,
these personality traits were included because they may be regarded as confounders of a
possible relationship between emotion regulation strategies and well-being outcomes.
Since gender and age have been proposed to relate to the use of emotion regulation
strategies (Gross et al. 2006; Gross and John 2003), possible gender and age differences
were also explored in the present study.
1.5 Are There Well-Being Consequences of Different Emotion Regulation Strategies?
Studies suggest that not only does cognitive reappraisal reduce negative emotions and their
behavioral expressions, it also require relatively few cognitive resources in doing so, and
these preserved cognitive resources can in turn be used more productively in social con-
texts (Gross et al. 2006; John and Gross 2004; Gross 1999; Miles and Gross 1999;
Richards and Gross 2000). Expressive suppression, conversely, requires tremendous
cognitive efforts (Richards and Gross 1999), is costly as it disrupts multiple aspects of
social exchange (Butler et al. 2003), and has been found to merely decrease the emotional
expression while the experience of the negative emotion tends to linger (John and Gross
2004; Gross and Levenson 1993). What is more, it has repeatedly been found in various
populations that once the emotional expression is tried inhibited, the experience is doubled
in magnitude. Undeniably, people who typically do not express their emotions are
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being275
physiologically more reactive (Miles and Gross 1999). Thus, exacerbating precisely the
negative feeling they are trying to suppress. It is important to remember that suppression is
not all bad, however. Indeed, Larsen and Prizmic (2004) maintain that it is a wrongful
assumption to presuppose that suppression is inherently pathogenic. In fact, studies on
neural correlates of emotion demonstrate that a person’s ability to regulate the duration of
negative affect and to suppress or inhibit the negative emotions may be crucial in
explaining mood disorders such as depression (Larsen and Prizmic 2004). Others (Gross
and Levenson 1993; Gross and John 2003) uphold that people are excellent suppressors,
partly because it is highly adaptive to be able to control emotions as certain social situ-
ations simply require us to be able to inhibit emotional expressive behaviours, indeed, they
go as far as to say that being able to inhibit emotions is thought of as demonstrating having
reached an important developmental milestone. Nevertheless, if chronically and inflexibly
used, research suggests that emotional inhibition remains a maladaptive emotion regulatory
strategy that not only correlates with lower levels of well-being and life satisfaction, but
also seems to elevate levels of depressed mood (Gross et al. 2006; Miles and Gross 1999).
The present study attempted to contribute to previous research by focusing on the influence
of the use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, respectively, upon a diverse
set of both positive and negative well-being consequences, namely satisfaction with life,
positive and negative affect, and depressed mood.
1.6 Aims of Present Study
Summing up, a cross-cultural sample of university students from Norway, Australia, and
the United States was recruited to complete a questionnaire designed to examine: the
prevalence of use of different emotion regulation strategies across gender, age, and culture;
the consequences of different emotion regulation strategies upon well-being outcomes; and
individual differences in the use of different emotion regulation strategies. It was expected
that participants who generally employed cognitive reappraisal to regulate their emotions
would demonstrate greater well-being, and less depressed mood. Importantly, the positive
effect of cognitive reappraisal on well-being was hypothesized to be independent of
extraversion. Additionally, we expected that persons who scored higher on private self-
consciousness would demonstrate emotion regulation efficacy; that is, regulate their
emotions more successfully by using more cognitive reappraisal and subsequently dem-
onstrate greater well-being.
Table 1 describes the participants by culture, gender, and age. A total of four hundred and
eighty-nine psychology students from Norway, Australia, and the United States (140 men
and 349 women) ranging in age from 17 to 65 (M = 22.6) completed a self-administered
questionnaire. In the United States, the 211 participants (65 men and 146 women) were all
undergraduate psychology students at the University of California, Berkeley, who partic-
ipated in the study in exchange for course credit. The age of the American participants
ranged from 18 to 34 (M = 19.9 years). In Norway, the 193 participants (54 men and 139
women) were psychology undergraduate students at the University of Oslo whose age
276S. M. Haga et al.
ranged from 19 to 51 (M = 23.2). The Norwegian students participated in the study as part
of an introductory psychology course. Their participation was completely voluntary as it
was not mandatory to take part in the study to fulfil the course requirements. In Australia,
of the 85 participants recruited (21 men and 64 women), ranging in age from 17 to 50
(M = 26.8), almost 60% were undergraduate psychology students in psychology at Griffith
University, Gold Coast Campus, who participated in the study in exchange for course
credit. Approximately 35% of the Australian participants were higher level psychology
students from the same university who were not compensated for their participation, whilst
the remaining 5% were undergraduate students who received a coffee voucher valued at
US$2 in exchange for their participation.
Participants filled in a survey questionnaire that took approximately 25 min to complete.
The questionnaire contained numerous scales assessing self-control, neuroticism and
extraversion, self-reflection and insight, emotion-regulatory strategies, and several mea-
sures of well-being. However, some of the scales included in the questionnaire are not
described herein as they are not relevant for the present article. The original English
measures were first translated into Norwegian by the investigators of the study and then
back-translated by several researchers. Inconsistencies in translation were solved through
discussion. Seeing as some expressions do not translate well into Norwegian some
expressions were altered slightly in the Norwegian version in order to obtain the same
connotation as in the original English version. The questionnaire was piloted on students in
the Psychology Master’s program at the University of Oslo in order to obtain feedback on
the translated measures, and also to test whether it took the estimated 25 min to complete.
In the description of the scales below, sample-items are given in English as those are the
3.1 Emotion Regulation Strategies
The chronic use of different emotion regulation strategies was assessed by means of the
Emotion regulation questionnaire (ERQ; Gross and John 2003). The ERQ is commonly
used in emotion regulation research and has been shown to have good convergent and
discriminant validity (Gross and John 2003). The ERQ is a ten-item measure that assesses
individual differences in two emotion regulations, namely cognitive reappraisal and
Table 1 Descriptive of study
Note: Percentage is reported in
\25 years [25 years
Total sample489140 (29,6) 349 (71,4) 399 (81,6) 85 (17,4)
Norway19354 (28,0) 139 (72,0) 147 (76,2) 46 (23,8)
21165 (30,8) 146 (69,2) 206 (97,6)5 (2,4)
Australia 8521 (24,7)64 (75,3)50 (58,8) 35 (41,2)
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being 277
expressive suppression. Six items assess cognitive reappraisal, and four items assess
expressive suppression. A sample item measuring cognitive reappraisal is ‘‘When I want to
feel less negative emotion (such as sadness or anger), I change what I’m thinking about.’’
A sample item measuring expressive suppression includes ‘‘I control my emotion by not
expressing them.’’ The participants rated each item on a 7-point likert scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The alpha coefficients were calculated to be .79
for the cognitive reappraisal scale and .76 for the expressive suppression scale.
3.2 Individual Difference Measures
The Self-reflection and insight scale (SRIS; Grant et al. 2002) is a twenty-item measure
that was included to assess two meta-cognitive processes, namely self-reflection and
insight, and is a measure of private self-consciousness. Twelve items assess self-reflection,
amongst which six items measure ‘‘engagement in self-reflection’’ and six items measure
‘‘need for self-reflection’’. Respective samples include ‘‘I frequently examine my feelings’’
(engagement in self-reflection) and ‘‘It is important for me to evaluate the things that I do’’
(need for self-reflection). Eight items measure insight, and a sample item is ‘‘I usually have
a very clear idea about why I’ve behaved in a certain way’’. The participants rated each
item on a 6-point likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree).
Although this is a new scale and has not been used extensively in research, it does appear
to be a reliable instrument (Grant et al. 2002). Alpha coefficients in the present study were
calculated to be .92 and .83 for the self-reflection and insight scales, respectively.
The extraversion and neuroticism sub-scales of the big five inventory (BFI; John and
Srivastava 1999) were used to assess trait levels of extraversion and neuroticism. The BFI
is a widely used measure of broad personality traits that has been demonstrated to have
good convergent and divergent validity (John and Srivastava 1999). Each sub-scale con-
tains eight items and participants rated the extent to which they agreed that each item was
an apt descriptor of their own personality. The participants rated each item on a 7-point
likert scale. Higher numbers corresponded to higher levels of agreement. Example items
from the extraversion subscale include ‘‘I see myself as someone who is talkative’’ and ‘‘I
see myself as someone who is outgoing, sociable’’. Example items from the neuroticism
subscale include ‘‘I see myself as someone who is depressed, blue’’ and ‘‘I see myself as
someone who can be moody’’. In the present study, alpha coefficients were calculated to be
.85 and .83 for the extraversion and neuroticism subscales, respectively.
The Center for epidemiological studies depression scale (CES-D; Radloff 1977) was
included to assess depressed mood. CES-D is a twenty-item self-report measure that
assesses depressive symptoms in behavioural, cognitive, and affective domains. Partici-
pants were asked to rate how frequently they experienced the symptoms over the past week
on a 4-point scale ranging from 0 (rarely or none of the time) to 3 (most of the time). Items
were preceded by the phrase ‘‘during the past week…’’ Sample items included, ‘‘I did not
feel like eating’’ (behavioural), ‘‘I thought my life had been a failure’’ (cognitive), and ‘‘I
felt sad’’ (affective). Items were summed up to obtain a global depressed mood score and
higher scores were indicative of greater distress. The CES-D has been studied meticulously
and has been found to be reliable (Radloff 1991; Roberts and Vernon 1983; Santor and
278S. M. Haga et al.
Coyne 1997) and valid (e.g. Himmelfarb and Murrell 1983). The present study calculated
an internal consistency reliability coefficient of .89.
The Satisfaction with life scale (SWLS; Diener et al. 1985) is a five-item measure that
assesses one’s satisfaction with one’s life as a whole. Participants rated each item on a
7-point likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). A sample item
includes: ‘‘the conditions of my life are excellent.’’ The psychometric properties of this
scale have repeatedly been studied and it has been shown to be a valid and reliable measure
of well-being (Pavot and Diener 1993; Diener et al. 1985). In the present study, an alpha of
.86 was calculated.
The Positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS; Watson et al. 1988) is a twenty-
item measure that assesses Negative affect (NA) and Positive affect (PA). Ten items assess
NA and ten items measure PA. The mood descriptors are relatively pure markers of either
high NA or high PA. The PA scale consists of the items active, alert, attentive, determined,
enthusiastic, excited, inspired, interested, proud, and strong. The items composing the NA
scale are afraid, ashamed, distressed, guilty, hostile, irritable, jittery, nervous, scared, and
upset. Participants were asked to rate each item based on how they usually feel using a
5-point scale ranging from 1 (very slightly) to 5 (extremely). This is a well-established and
reliable measure of affect (Watson et al. 1988). In the present study, alphas of .84 and .85
were calculated for PA and NA, respectively.
4.1 Descriptive Statistics and Correlations
Correlations among the measured variables, reliability coefficients, and descriptive
statistics are presented in Table 2. Table 2 shows that participants made greater use of
cognitive reappraisal than expressive suppression (t = 27.5, p B .01). Also, they generally
appeared to score high on positive affect and life satisfaction, and low on negative affect
and depressed mood. Moreover, the results revealed that both expressive suppression and
cognitive reappraisal correlated with all the well-being measures, albeit in opposite
directions. However, no correlation was observed between expressive suppression and
4.2 Emotion Regulation Strategies Across Gender, Age and Culture
Men scored higher than women on the suppression scale (t = 6.10, p B .01). Overall mean
for men was 3.26 (SD = 1.05) and for women 2.62 (SD = 1.06). For reappraisal, there
was no gender difference with men on average scoring 4.81 (SD = 1.32) and women 4.69
(SD = .93).
Correlations between age and emotion regulation strategies were performed to test
whether the use of expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal changed with age. Age
was found to correlate with expressive suppression (r = -.13, p B .01), but not with
cognitive reappraisal. To illustrate this, a t-test was performed where age 25 was entered as
the cut point4. Analyses showed an age difference in the use of suppression (t = -2.50,
4As the present study comprised a student population, the average age was fairly low and the cut-point age
used for analytic purposes was therefore quite young.
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being279
Table 2 Correlations among all variables (Pearson’s r), reliability coefficients (Cronbach’s alpha), mean scores and standard deviations
Positive affect (1)
Negative affect (2)
Depressed mood (4)
Total PSC (9)
Note: SWLS, satisfaction with life scale; Total PSC, total private self-consciousness
280S. M. Haga et al.
p B .05), with people above the age of 25 scoring an overall mean of 2.5 (SD = .99), and
people under the age of 25 scoring an overall mean of 2.9 (SD = 1.12). The same tests
were performed controlling for gender, and results remained the same suggesting both men
and women suppress less with increasing age. Notably, however, despite men’s decreased
use of expressive suppression with age, indirect comparisons of means indicate that men
continue to make comparatively greater use of expressive suppression than women, with
men above the age of 25 scoring an overall mean of 2.9 (SD = .91) and women scoring an
overall mean of 2.3 (SD = .94).
Cultural differences in the use of emotion regulation strategies were studied by means of
one-way ANOVA with culture as the between-participants variable. The use of suppression
(F (2, 486) = 10.03, p B .01) and reappraisal (F (2, 486) = 5.90, p B .01) varied sig-
nificantly by culture. The effect size was moderate for suppression (partial eta
squared = .04) and small for reappraisal (partial eta squared = .02). Following the
ANOVA, Gabriel’s pair wise test procedure was used to directly compare the suppression
and reappraisal scores between the three cultures5. Pair wise comparisons revealed that
Americans (M = 3.0, SD = 1.16) scored higher on the expressive suppression scale than
did Norwegians (M = 2.6, SD = 1.02, p B .01) and Australians (M = 2.7, SD = 1.01,
p B .05). In addition, Australians (M = 5.0, SD = .88) scored higher on the reappraisal
scale as compared to the Norwegians (M = 4.6, SD = .78, p B .01). Since mean age
varied between cross-cultural samples, all cross-cultural comparisons were controlled by
means of running general linear models with age included as covariate. These analyses
revealed that the impact of culture upon the emotion regulation strategies not only retained
significance, but was only slightly affected.
4.3 Predicting Well-being
To test whether cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression had any predictive value
on the four well-being measures, and to investigate if the predictive value of the strategies
on well-being remained after the effects of the global personality measures were controlled
for, a number of hierarchical linear regressions were performed. In those analyses,
extraversion and neuroticism were included as a first set of predictors, while reappraisal,
suppression, self-reflection, and insight were entered as a second set of predictors. PA, NA,
life satisfaction, and depressed mood were separately entered as dependent variables. In all
these analyses, the variables entered in the second block represented a significant increase
in the explained variance in the well-being measures; hence Table 3 reports the beta-
coefficients of the full models.
4.3.1 Positive and Negative Affect
As expected, cognitive reappraisal correlated positively with PA (r = .22, p B .01), and
negatively with NA (r = -.17, p B .01) (Table 2). Moreover, findings demonstrate that
expressive suppression correlated negatively with PA (r = -.20, p B .01), and positively
with NA (r = .11, p B .05). As described above, to test whether cognitive reappraisal and
expressive suppression had any predictive value on PA and NA when the effects of global
5Gabriel’s comparison procedure was used as the sample sizes differed slightly between cultures, and
because it has been designed to cope specifically with such situations (Field 2005, p. 276).
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being281
personality characteristics were controlled for, a number of hierarchical regression anal-
yses were performed. The results are presented in Table 3. Cognitive reappraisal
(beta = .09), extraversion (beta = .47), neuroticism (beta = -.12) and self-reflection
(beta = .12) exerted direct effects upon PA. In contrast, only neuroticism (beta = .57) and
insight (beta = -.12) were found to predict NA.
4.3.2 Satisfaction with Life
As expected, cognitive reappraisal correlated positively with life satisfaction (r = .24,
p B .01), and expressive suppression correlated negatively with life satisfaction (r = -.19,
p B .01) (Table 2). Following the same procedure as with PA and NA, separate multiple
hierarchicalregressionswereperformed,andasTable 3illustrates,reappraisal(beta = .13),
extraversion (beta = .13), suppression (beta = -.09), neuroticism (beta = -.30) and
insight (beta = .13) separately predicted life satisfaction.
4.3.3 Depressed Mood
Finally, analyses showed that while cognitive reappraisal correlated negatively with
depressed mood (r = -.16, p B .01), the opposite was true for expressive suppression
(r = .26, p B .01) (Table 2). Moreover, as can be observed in Table 3, expressive sup-
pression (beta = .19) together with neuroticism (beta = .43) and insight (beta = -.20)
independently predicted depressed mood.
The Sobel test has been developed to formally test whether a mediator carries the
influence of an independent variable to a dependent variable (Preacher and Hayes 2004).
Hence, to assess if cognitive reappraisal was just merely mediating the effect of extra-
version on well-being, four separate Sobel tests were conducted for each of the dependent
variables; positive and negative affect, life satisfaction, and depressed mood. Two
Table 3 Regressing well-being measures upon cognitive reappraisal, expressive suppression, extraversion,
neuroticism, insight, and self-reflection (N = 483)
Positive affect Negative affect Life satisfactionDepressed mood
Neuroticism- .12** .57**-.30**.43**
*p\.05, **p\.01, ***p\.001
Note: Beta coefficients from step 2 are reported. All adjusted R2changes are significant at p\.001 except
for negative affect which is significant at p\.01
282S. M. Haga et al.
regressions were performed for each dependent variable. In the first regression, the inde-
pendent variable (extraversion) was entered as predictor and the possible mediator
(cognitive reappraisal) was entered as the dependent variable to obtain the unstandardized
regression coefficient and the standard error for the association between extraversion and
cognitive reappraisal. In the second regression, extraversion and cognitive reappraisal were
entered as predictors and the four well-being measures were entered separately as
dependent variables to obtain the unstandardized coefficients and standard errors for the
association between cognitive reappraisal and the dependent variables. The regression
coefficients and standard errors were subsequently entered into separate Sobel tests
(Preacher and Hayes 2004). All analyses showed that cognitive reappraisal did not mediate
the effect of extraversion on subjective well-being.
4.4 Emotion Regulation Strategies Predicting Well-Being Across Cultures
The cultural aspect surveyed in the present study was twofold. First, to begin to explore the
prevalence of use of emotion regulation strategies across three cultures, and second to
examine how the use of the emotion regulation strategies related to subjective well-being
across cultures. Hence, the same correlations and regressions assessing the relations
between emotion regulation strategies, personality, and well-being were performed sepa-
rately for each culture6. The correlations are presented in Table 4. As can be seen,
cognitive reappraisal and suppression generally related similarly to the well-being mea-
sures across cultures. Table 5 presents the regressions by culture. Also here, most findings
remain consistent with the sample as a whole.
4.5 Well-being Across Cultures
Subsequently, as the three cultures differed in their use of emotion-regulatory strategies,
but demonstrated similar effects of emotion regulation strategy upon well-being, one-way
Table 4 Correlations (Pearson’s correlation coefficients), mean scores (M), and standard deviations (SD)
NorwayUnited States Australia
Cognitive reappraisal (1)–––
Expressive suppression (2) .00–-.08–.04–
Positive affect (3) .21**-.27**.29**-.10 .08-.23*
Negative affect (4)-.25**.10-.15.08-.11 .08
Life satisfaction (5).24**-.27**.25**-.14* .18-.26*
Depressed mood (6)-.14*.23**-.16*.21**-.25*.35**
*p = .05, **p\.01
Note: Norway (N = 193), the United States (N = 211), Australia (N = 85)
6These correlations and regressions were also executed controlling for gender, and as gender was found to
not confound the findings pertaining to strategies and well-being, it is not discussed herein.
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being 283
Table 5 Regressing well-being measures upon personality and emotion regulation strategies across cultures (N = 193 Norwegians (N), 85 Australians (A), and 211
*p\.05, **p\.01, ***p\.001
Note: Beta coefficients from step 2 are reported. (1) and (2) indicate step 1 and 2
284S. M. Haga et al.
ANOVA with culture as the between-participants variable was performed to test whether
there were cultural differences in reported well-being. The level of PA (F (2,485) = 7.77,
p B .01), NA (F (2, 485) = 7.71, p B .01) and depressed mood (F (2, 479) = 8.87,
p B .01) varied by culture. Although the effect sizes were small (all eta squared = .03).
Again, Gabriel’s pair wise test procedure was used to compare the well-being scores
between the three cultures. Results (means are presented in Table 2) suggested that
Norwegians scored higher than Americans on PA (p B .01), and that Americans scored
higher than Norwegians (p = .05) and Australians (p B .01) on NA and depressed mood
(p B .01). There were no cultural differences in life satisfaction. As Australians only
scored higher on the cognitive reappraisal scale compared to Norwegians, a t-test was
performed to directly compare Australia and Norway on all the well-being measures.
Findings suggested Australians indeed scored higher on life satisfaction (t = 2.19,
p B .05, M = 5.1, SD = 1.12 for Australians and M = 4.8, SD = 1.19 for Norwegians)
and lower on NA (t = -1.90, p = .05, M = 1.7, SD = .55 for Australians and M = 1.9,
SD = .48 for Norwegians) than Norwegians.
4.6 Emotion Regulation and Private Self-Consciousness
Paramount to the present study was to explore what relates to the use of cognitive reap-
praisal and expressive suppression. It was hypothesized that private self-consciousness
would relate positively with the use of cognitive reappraisal and negatively with the use of
expressive suppression. As can be seen in Table 2, these hypotheses were supported.
Moreover, the same pattern was found for both subscales; self-reflection and insight cor-
related positively with cognitive reappraisal (respectively, r = .19 and r = .15, p B .01),
and negatively with suppression (respectively, r = -.14, p B .05, and r = -.18, p B .01).
All succeeding analyses looking at private self-consciousness were performed examining
the subscales separately.
Next, regression analyses were performed to test whether self-reflection and insight had
any predictive value for the use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, and to
examine whether one subscale better predicted the use of strategies. Self-reflection and
insight were entered as predictors and cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression
were entered separately as dependent variables7. Initial analyses showed that self-reflection
(beta = .22), but not insight, was predictive of cognitive reappraisal, and self-reflection
and insight were about equally predictive of expressive suppression (beta = -.10 for self-
reflection, and beta = -.11 for insight). Importantly, different results emerged when
comparing genders. While self-reflection remained predictive of cognitive reappraisal
across gender (beta = .19 for both women and men), it merely predicted diminished use of
expressive suppression in women (beta = -.11). Furthermore, whereas insight was found
to predict decreased use of suppression in women (beta = -.23), it predicted increased use
of reappraisal in men (beta = .18).
Finally, to substantiate the claim by Monsen and Monsen (1999), that a person’s level of
private self-consciousness is subjected to change; correlations between age and self-
reflection and insight, respectively, were calculated. Results showed that age correlated
with insight (r = .19, p B .01), but not with self-reflection. To further specify the link
between insight, self-reflection and age, a t-test was performed where age 25 again was
7We also ran the same regressions with extraversion and neuroticism included as predictors, but the betas
did not change substantially.
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being285
entered as the cut point. Interestingly, results show that participants above the age of 25
scored higher on both self-reflection (t = 2.42, p B .05) and insight (t = 4.18, p B .01)
than participants under the age of 25 (for self-reflection, M = 4.6, SD = .73 for
25\years, and M = 4.4, SD = .79 for\25 years, and for insight, M = 3.9, SD = .77 for
25\ years and M = 3.5, SD = .75 for\25 years).
5.1 Predicting Well-being
The results of the present study are consistent with previous studies (Gross et al. 2006;
Gross 1998b, 1999; John and Gross 2004; Miles and Gross 1999; Richards and Gross
2000) suggesting cognitive reappraisal to be positively related to well-being, while the
opposite is true for expressive suppression. Cognitive reappraisal was associated with
enhanced life satisfaction and positive affect, and with lower levels of depressed mood and
negative affect. Expressive suppression, conversely, was associated with enhanced nega-
tive affect and depressed mood, and lower life satisfaction and positive affect. Important to
the present study was that the positive effect of cognitive reappraisal on well-being be
independent of extraversion, and the results show that cognitive reappraisal does indeed
make a unique contribution to people’s life satisfaction and positive affect. The role of
extraversion was of particular interest as it is consistently associated with well-being
(DeNeve 1999; Schimmack et al. 2004). It was interesting to note that the enhanced well-
being associated with cognitive reappraisal was upheld when extraversion was controlled
for because it indicates that people who do not score high on extraversion have a fair
chance at happiness nonetheless. Providentially, the findings support our speculations that
healthy emotion regulation provides a unique route to enhanced well-being. Consistent
with much of the emotion regulation literature this study aimed to map peoples’ general
use of strategies across time and situations. It should be noted, however, that although this
approach was adopted herein it does not imply that the situation does not influence the use
of emotion regulation strategy.
5.2 Private Self-Consciousness and Emotion Regulation
Paramount to the study was to seek a better understanding of why people employ one
emotion regulation strategy instead of another. Of primary interest was the association
between private self-consciousness, comprised by self-reflection and insight, and emotion
regulation. Certainly, numerous variables and mechanisms ought to be explored in such a
consideration, but due to the limited scope of the present study, self-reflection and insight
were targeted as they are not only suggested to constitute key factors in the emotion-
regulatory process (Grant et al. 2002), but are also thought to be malleable (Monsen and
Monsen 1999) and central to mental health (Bower 1981; Forgas and Bower 1987).
When scrutinizing the use of emotion regulation strategies, and the relation between
strategies and private self-consciousness, gender emerged as an important variable. First,
consistent with previous findings (Gross and John 2003) men were found to make greater
use of suppression, while no gender difference was observed in the use of cognitive
reappraisal. Interestingly, we did find both men and women above the age of 25 to use
expressive suppression less than people under the age of 25. Notwithstanding the decrease
286 S. M. Haga et al.
in use with age, however, men continue to make greater use of suppression than women,
which, consistent with Brooks (1998), perhaps suggests this strategy to be central to norms
of masculinity and maintained by culturally expressed gender expectations. There was no
marked increase in the use of cognitive reappraisal with age, however, the average age of
the present sample was fairly low, and age differences in cognitive reappraisal may
manifest themselves later in life. Secondly, for women, self-reflection was found to be
important in eluding the use of suppression and increasing the use of reappraisal. Insight,
however, merely decreased their use of suppression. For men, however, self-reflection and
insight were found to be important in increasing the use of cognitive reappraisal, but
neither affected men’s use of expressive suppression.
These results depict a relationship between private self-consciousness and emotion
regulation where self-reflection is suggested to play a more central role in increasing the
use of cognitive reappraisal than diminishing the use of expressive suppression, and where
insight is found to affect men and women differently. It should be noted that the central
role of self-reflection with regards to cognitive reappraisal is perhaps not too surprising as
both cognitive reappraisal and self-reflection represent meta-cognitive processes. Con-
ceptual similarity, nonetheless, the correlation between the two variables was found to be
quite low suggesting they are not one and the same, but rather interrelated as just described.
The findings pertaining to women support our hypotheses that private self-conscious-
ness predicts greater use of reappraisal and lesser use of suppression. Of great interest,
however, is the finding that among men private self-consciousness merely increases the use
of reappraisal, but do not affect the use of suppression at all, suggesting there are other
more powerful mechanisms than private self-consciousness that promote men’s use of
expressive suppression as emotion regulation strategy. Natural aspects to consider would
be gender-role expectation, where men are expected to not show as much emotion as
women and are therefore strongly encouraged to suppress their feelings (Brooks 1998).
This was not explicitly explored in the present study, and is something to pursue in future
studies as the detrimental affective implications of employing expressive suppression for
well-being are consistent across gender.
5.3 Emotion Regulation and Cultural Variation
In the present study’s aspiration to understand why an individual habitually uses one
emotion regulation strategy instead of another, culture was hypothesized to constitute
another central antecedent. The Russian psychologist Vygotsky (1978) emphasized in his
early writings, the shaping role of the environment on an individual’s thinking. Indeed, he
argued that culture exerts a very powerful influence on all of us as it teaches us through
internalization both what to think and how to think. Nevertheless, the role of social context
on emotion, and by extension emotion regulation, has long been neglected in psychology.
Many influential empirical studies done in the field of affective science (Ekman 1972,
1992; Levenson 1994) ignored the relational aspect of emotion, and instead focused on
emotions as an intra-psychic phenomenon that were bounded in an individual’s head.
Although researchers more recently have started to recognize that emotions are embedded
in social contexts (Campos et al. 2004; Keltner and Haidt 2001; Lazarus 1991), and that
culture may play an important role in signalling both what emotions are appropriate and
valued and thus how they should be regulated (Campos et al. 2004; Schweder 1993), the
study of culture and emotion regulation has largely been left uncharted at the expense of
Emotion Regulation Strategies and Well-Being 287
establishing universality, warranting the present study’s exploration of the effects of
culture on the experience and expression of emotions (Larsen and Prizmic 2004).
It was speculated that Americans would be more inclined to suppress negative emotions
as one pivotal cultural value is high emoting of positive affect. This is exactly what we
found. Americans showed the greatest use of suppression as emotion regulation strategy,
and they also scored highest on measures of depressed mood and negative affect. These
findings seem to suggest that the use of strategies varies, not only within cultures, but also
between cultures. However, the implications of employing expressive suppression or
cognitive reappraisal seem to be consistent across cultures. Of course, the sample of the
present study is limited in that it only represents Western cultures, however, it does
illustrate that whilst the use of strategies varies, the affective implications do not. Future
studies should investigate whether these findings are supported in other cultures such as
Asian cultures where affective inhibition is highly valued.
5.4 Possible Implications for Intervention
As a large proportion of psychopathology is said to be characterized by maladaptive
emotion regulation (Gross et al. 2006; Rottenberg and Gross 2003), and as significant parts
of the population has been suggested to be less than successful in regulating their emotions
(Gratz and Roemer 2004), the present study was done in part to point to general inter-
vention strategies that can be further explored in empirical studies. As private self-
consciousness is believed to represent a personality characteristic that may be subjected to
change in an intervention of sorts (Monsen and Monsen 1999), its relation to emotion
regulation strategies was explored. And surely, self-reflection and insight emerged as
antecedents preceding the engagement of either emotion regulation strategy, albeit
somewhat differently for men and women, and seemingly most importantly with regards to
increasing the use of cognitive reappraisal. Moreover, self-reflection and insight were
found to increase with age, suggesting these personality characteristics are indeed not only
specific but also malleable. This suggests psychoeducation may offer one way by which
awareness may be raised and the necessary skills may be acquired such that an individual
may learn how to more successfully regulate his or her emotions, which in turn may
ultimately enhance his or her subjective well-being.
Moreover, as the present study found differences in use of strategies across cultures, this
might indicate that it is possible to influence the use of strategies, which in turn may have
implications for mental health. One way of promoting the use of healthy emotion regu-
lation, of course, is to directly raise awareness of the advantages of cognitive reappraisal.
Insight or enhanced awareness of what used to be unknown to a person, such as the benefits
of employing cognitive reappraisal, or disadvantages of expressive suppression, coupled
with reinforced learning over time ought to provide a framework for real change.
5.5 Limitations of the Present Study and Future Research
One limitation of the present study was the inclusion of only Western cultures. Non-
western cultures need to be included particularly to determine whether the affective
implications of engaging in suppression are culturally conditioned or universal. Another
limitation is that all participants were university students who frequently engage in meta-
cognitive processes which may have inflated the level of self-reflection and insight. So
288 S. M. Haga et al.
although private self-consciousness emerged as central to emotion regulation in this
population, the sample is not representative of the population as a whole, hence the
significance of self-reflection and insight needs to be corroborated in a more indiscriminate
sample. Also, the sample was fairly large, and the effect sizes were comparatively small.
Furthermore, as discussed above, for men, self-reflection and insight did not relate to
expressive suppression at all, informing us that there are other gender-specific variables
central to the use of expressive suppression, and that this is in need of further inquiry.
Finally, the design was cross-sectional instead of longitudinal.
Other potential challenges that await future research concern how and under what
circumstances besides individual therapy one can or should go about increasing a person’s
level of self-reflection and insight. Monsen and Monsen’s (1999) model of achieving
increased emotional awareness offer one solution as to how self-reflection and insight
regarding one’s own emotions may be enhanced, but another challenge lies in where this
can be done. At present, such self-consciousness is primarily deliberately pursued is in
therapeutic settings, as intervention for people who conceivably have already developed
severe maladaptive symptoms. Of course, one cannot inflict increased self-reflection and
insight upon people who themselves do not seek such awareness. But perhaps, as people
who seek therapy often have reached a level where their maladaptive emotion regulation
disrupts their general functioning, the threshold for requesting therapy is too high, sug-
gesting there may be a need for more accessible settings that people can approach, such as
for instance web-based interventions.
Despite certain limitations, the present study highlights antecedents and consequences of
emotion regulation and contributes to emotion regulation research in that it embraces a
cultural aspect. And undeniably, it illustrated a cultural influence on emotion regulation.
Perhaps explicit awareness of what the cultural norms are, how they influence us, and what
the implications are may make us less apt to be swayed by cultural standards. Moreover,
regardless of who comprised the present sample, self-reflection and insight emerged as
important for healthy emotion regulation, and both private self-consciousness and healthy
emotion regulation manifested themselves as important for well-being, and by extension
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