Learning to Reappraise or to Accept? The Effects of Acceptance and Reappraisal Training on Emotion, Mental Health, and Physiology

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Dr. Lindsey Root Luna

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Existing research has shown that adaptive emotion regulation strategies (e.g., acceptance, reappraisal) reduce physiological reactivity, and are negatively related to psychopathology and positively related to self-report. This study examines the effectiveness of training participants to use either reappraisal or acceptance after a transgression. We predicted reappraisal would produce the most positive outcomes, followed by acceptance. In this study, participants (N = 90) identified an interpersonal transgression within the past year and attended two visits, one week apart. We randomly assigned participants to a condition (reappraisal, acceptance, control). Participants described the transgression, completed self-report measures, and engaged in imagery during each visit. Physiology was monitored during 120s imagery trials. All participants completed baseline and rumination trials; participants in the acceptance and reappraisal groups implemented their strategies in the final trial while controls ruminated again. Using a mixed-design ANOVA (3 Condition X 2 Visit) the data revealed significant decreases in blame, rumination, and anxiety between visits while benevolence, acceptance, emotional flexibility, and life satisfaction increased. During visit one, imagery, accepters reported significantly less sadness and more happiness and peace. During visit two, reappraisers reported less anger and more gratitude and joy while preliminary physiological data showed interaction effects for blood pressure; reappraisers experienced greater reductions. Overall, participants in all three conditions benefited from the study; for example, thinking about the transgression positively impacted rumination, anxiety and life satisfaction. When comparing the specific strategies, acceptance resulted in more immediate impacts (e.g., reductions in arousal and negative emotion), while reappraisal impacted cardiovascular functioning in the short term and more sustained emotional impacts, potentially moving participants toward greater forgiveness of their offenders.


This research was supported by the Jacob E. Nyenhuis Student/Faculty Collaborative Summer Grant and the Frost Research Center at Hope College.

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