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Genetic and cultural impact on emotion regulation

Important cross-cultural differences exist in people's responses to emotional stimuli. Research is delving into emotion regulation in individualist as compared to collectivist societies.
Genetic and cultural impact on emotion regulation
Emotion regulation is the ability to understand and accept emotional experiences. Effective emotion regulation can promote appropriate behaviour in the workplace and other social interactions. Ineffective emotion regulation can have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.

Research into observed cultural differences in emotional experience and expression is being tackled by the EMOTION REGULATION project in two ways. First, through the examination of neural mechanisms involved in emotional responses in different situations and second, through the study of how people regulate their emotions when instructed to do so and the influence of cultural factors on this.

Using electroencephalogram technology, the impact of social context on Chinese and Dutch people’s neural responses to emotional stimuli was examined. Chinese subjects represented a more collectivist culture and Dutch participants, a more individualist society. A cross-cultural group comparative analysis is underway and early results show that social context effects emotional responses differently in people from the two cultures.

Using performance in a novel emotional cognitive control task, the researchers measured the effects of increasing emotionally-arousing stimuli. The main findings demonstrated different performance-based indicators for these distinct emotional stimuli. These findings help to address important current questions on how thoughts and feelings interact in the brain.

Results from another study using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology showed that when people are encouraged to adopt a more independent approach to defining themselves, they tend to regulate their emotions so that they experience more positive feelings.

A study investigating the effectiveness of a particular type of emotion regulation strategy – where people must reinterpret an emotional stimulus - used the reconstruction of an anger promoting event in an experimental setting. Observations showed that reinterpreting emotional stimuli in different ways proved more or less effective for people depending on their cultural background.

EMOTION REGULATION work has been presented at five conferences and up to five manuscripts may represent the research in journals. Research is now addressing emotion regulation in individuals with several genetically defined neurodevelopmental disorders.

Project deliverables will provide a greater understanding of how people from distinct cultural backgrounds control their emotions in everyday life. EMOTION REGULATION research may also result in intervention strategies for professionals working with people with certain neurodevelopmental disorders.

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