Automatic Emotion Regulation



How do people effectively regulate their emotional reactions? Why are some people better at this than others? Most prior research has addressed these questions by focusing on deliberate forms of emotion regulation. We argue that this focus has left out an important aspect of emotion regulation, namely, automatic emotion regulation (AER). Our review of the behavioral literature suggests that AER is pervasive in everyday life, and has far-reaching consequences for individuals’ emotions. However, the behavioral literature has yet to address the mechanisms underlying the observed effects. Because it is difficult to directly measure the processes involved in AER, evidence from neuroscientific studies is particularly helpful in addressing these questions. Our review of the neuroscientific literature suggests distinct neural bases for different types of AER, which provides important clues about the cognitive and behavioral processes that might be involved in AER.