Styles of Inhibiting Emotional Expression: Distinguishing Repressive Coping from Impression Management


concerning this article should be addressed to either Daniel A. Weinberger, Department of Psychology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-7123, or Martin N. Davidson, The Amos Tuck School, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755-9004.


ABSTRACT Although repressors' avoidant coping style seems genuinely defensive, an alternative hypothesis is that repressors are actually distress-prone impression managers who provide “socially desirable” verbal reports. To establish discriminant validity, 30 repressors and 30 self-identified impression managers participated in a timed phrase-completion task. Half of the subjects were encouraged to be emotionally expressive and half to be restrained. Repressors were highly defensive regardless of the social demand, and impression managers only managed to match the repressors' level of distancing during the first segment of the inhibitive condition. Repressors were as physiologically reactive when they made defensive claims as they were when they made more negative disclosures to others. Moreover, when confronted, only the repressors denied that their heart rate elevations might be related to their emotional responses. These findings suggest that repressors' limited emotional expression is more determined by defenses against awareness of affect than by self-presentational concerns.