The influence of inhibitory control on reappraisal and the experience of negative emotions

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Inhibitory control (IC) enables goal-directed behaviour by reducing the interference of irrelevant information. Studies have shown that IC can downregulate performance-based behavioural and physiological measures of emotional reactivity. This study examined whether transient recruitment of IC can modulate self-reported negative feelings after exposure to negative or neutral content. Furthermore, it was tested if triggering IC can improve the ability to reduce the negativity of unpleasant content by reinterpreting its meaning (cognitive reappraisal). For this purpose, a combined flanker and cognitive reappraisal task was performed by 49 participants. The flanker task was used to prime IC before participants reappraised or observed negative and neutral content. Priming IC before negative images reduced self-reported negative feelings compared to when IC was not primed. In contrast, priming IC before neutral images increased negative feelings. Priming IC had no influence on the ability to reappraise negative emotional content. Finally, trait rumination was associated with higher emotional reactivity only when IC was not primed. These results illustrate the importance of IC in decreasing emotional reactivity after being exposed to negative content. IC is revealed as a mechanism that can dynamically modulate subjective emotional reactivity as a function of emotional context.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)364-371
Number of pages8
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Inhibitory control
  • cognitive control
  • cognitive reappraisal
  • emotion regulation
  • emotional reactivity

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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