Date of Submission

12-10-2017

Abstract

Contemporary theories of emotional well-being emphasize context as being inextricably linked to the process of emotion regulation. Empirical studies of these processes have generally relied upon single-occasion measurement approaches, but such methods are limited in their capacity to uncover regulatory processes that are inherently contextual and dynamic and that unfold over discrete time-periods. In this thesis, I address this gap using a daily process approach in three empirical studies to examine contextual variability in the usefulness of three popular emotion regulation strategies: mindfulness, cognitive reappraisal, and emotion suppression.

In Study 1, I establish a daily process approach as relevant to studying emotion regulation, providing evidence for the notion, central to contextual approaches to emotion regulation that the utility of regulatory strategies depends on the person using the strategy. The study examines within-day and spillover (lagged) effects, providing evidence of the relationship between regulatory strategies and daily well-being within days and from one day to the next. This study explores the issue of directionality of effects and the possibility of reciprocal relations between daily strategy use and affect. Finally, this study uncovers age as an important moderator of the effect of one strategy—cognitive reappraisal—on the experience of daily negative affect.

Study 2 examines contextual variability in emotion regulation at a macro level of environmental context, testing a hypothesis that the utility of the three regulatory strategies depends on how much people using the strategies experience psychological need satisfaction in their lives. The hypothesis is supported for one strategy: cognitive reappraisal. Cognitive reappraisal is associated with daily benefits to well-being for those not experiencing need satisfaction, and reductions in daily well-being for those using the strategy while getting their needs met. Further, this interaction is mostly explained by the need for relatedness, indicating a special relationship between the strategy and people’s social world.

Study 3 examines the role of daily positive and negative events in the process of emotion regulation in a more proximal (micro) context. Specifically, it examines daily event “context” effects using a series of multilevel moderation models. Two reliable context effects were found. First, cognitive reappraisal was found to be related to decreased negative affect on days with more negative performance events, and increased negative affect when used on days with less negative performance events. Secondly, emotion suppression was associated with decreases in positive affect, but only on days in which there were more frequent positive social events. Several more tentative interactions are reported to inform future research possibilities.

Results and future research directions, including practical considerations, are discussed in relation to prominent theories of well-being and current contextual theories of emotion regulation. Overall, this thesis provides evidence in support of a contextual approach to emotion regulation and validates a daily process approach in studying the contexts that influence this important human process.

School/Institute

Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

215 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Faculty

Faculty of Health Sciences

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