Cognitive strategies to regulate emotions – current evidence and future directions Academic Article uri icon


  • Emotions are important and basic in human experience, and are comprised of different components, such as subjective feelings, cognitive appraisal, physiological response and action tendencies (Kleinginna and Kleinginna, 1981). Emotions become dysfunctional when they interfere with one's ability to behave adaptively, and therefore successful emotion regulation (ER), when necessary, is crucial for psychological health. Difficulties in adaptive ER are related to different psychopathologies such as depression and anxiety disorders [for a review see Aldao et al. (2010)]. A well-known model that describes the process of ER was suggested by Gross (1998). The model describes five processes of ER that occur at different time points in the course of emotional processing and regulation. In this paper we focus on two ER strategies included in the process model of Gross—distraction and reappraisal—and also on labeling, an ER strategy that is not part of Gross' model. Reappraisal, distraction and labeling are cognitive strategies used to regulate emotions [for a review on the reciprocal relationship between emotion and cognition see Dolcos et al. (2011)]. We start with definitions and findings regarding distraction, reappraisal and labeling. Subsequently, we present the process model of Gross, with labeling as an additional form of ER. Finally, we suggest that labeling might mediate the effectiveness of reappraisal in clinical populations with deficits in emotion recognition and ER, and discuss the clinical implications of this suggestion and future directions of research and conceptualization.

publication date

  • January 1, 2014