Chapter 14 – Emotion Regulation

Defining Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation occurs when people try to control or change any of the emotion components associated with an emotion experience, either consciously or unconsciously.


People regulate their emotions when they influence (Gross, 2008):

  • Which emotions they have
  • When they have emotions (i.e., situations)
  • How they experience emotions (i.e., arousal or valence)
  • How they express emotions  (verbal and non-verbal behavior)
  • How long they experience emotions (i.e., duration)


Gross (2015a, 2015b) identifies two ways people regulate emotions – intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsic emotion regulation occurs when we try to regulate our own emotions.  Extrinsic emotion regulation occurs when we try to regulate another person’s emotions.  In fact, we could engage in intrinsic and extrinsic regulation at the same time.  For example, when we try to calm a friend in distress, we are trying to regulate the friend’s emotions (extrinsic) and also trying to reduce our negative emotions as well (intrinsic)!  Figure 1 provides examples of emotion regulation strategies based on the valence of emotion, whether the goal is to decrease or increase emotion, and whether the regulation is intrinsic or extrinsic.  In this chapter, we will focus on intrinsic emotion regulation.


Figure 1

Examples of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Emotion Regulation Categorized by Valence and Increasing or Decreasing Emotion

Negative Emotions

A table for negative emotion examples of emotion regulation
Emotion Regulation Decrease Increase
Intrinsic After a fight with a friend, exercising to reduce one’s own anger. Before a big trial, a lawyer increases her negative feelings.
Extrinsic Telling a child who hurt himself to take deep breaths.

A therapist helps a client to think about her job loss in a more positive way to reduce negative emotions.

Before a big game, a coach gets his players angry.

Positive Emotions

A table for positive emotion examples of emotion regulation
Emotion Regulation Decrease Increase
Intrinsic Your adversary at work loses a big account and you cover your smile with your hand. After winning a prize, you jump up and down to feel more joy!
Extrinsic After your child wins a soccer game, you take them for ice cream.

A therapist asks her client to think of the most positive event from the week.

Adapted from “Emotion regulation: Current status and future prospects,” by J.J. Gross, 2015a, Psychological Inquiry26(1), p. 5 (  Copyright 2015 by Routledge.



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