Chapter 14 – Emotion Regulation

Why Do People Regulate Their Emotions?

People regulate their emotions for a variety of reasons.


Hedonic Motivation

Hedonism is the seeking of pleasure and avoidance of pain.  Applied to emotion regulation, people are motivated to feel positive emotions and to avoid negative emotions.  To be motivated hedonically, a person’s current emotional state must be different from the emotional state they desire.  People in Western cultures (vs. Eastern) would be more likely to regulate their emotions for hedonic reasons.  Remember, Eastern individuals are more comfortable feeling mixed and negative emotions.



Performance-improving emotion regulation occurs when people are motivated to increase or decrease their emotions as a tool to improve performance in a certain situation.  To increase positive emotions toward an upcoming exam, a student might take smaller practice quizzes (which actually works!  Small tasks that cause pride create positive emotions toward similar assessments).


Pro-social Motivation

Pro-Social regulation occurs when we control our emotions within a relationship context.   We might hide disappointment we experience after opening a gift from a partner that we do not like.  Perhaps a loved one is nervous, and we try to express positive emotions to calm their nerves.  When we engage in extrinsic regulation, this would most likely fall in this category.


Self-Protection Motivation

People are motivated to show or experience emotion to protect either their own physical or psychological safety or the safety of another. For example, people might pretend to show a certain emotion to protect their own safety.  We might elicit empathy in other people to get them to acquire resources or help.


Impression Management Motivation

People are motivated to show or hide emotions to maintain a favorable impression of the self.  Why?  Well, remember one of the two motives in social psychology is to maintain our self-esteem.  How do we maintain our self-esteem?  By getting people to like us and view us favorably.  When we follow emotion norms, this would follow under impression management motivation.  Emotion norms tell us how we should behave and express our emotions based on culture, gender, social role, and job status.

Table 1 provides a summary of the 5 motivations for regulating emotion.


Table 1

5 Motivations for Emotion Regulation

A table showing a reason for regulation, the definition, and an example
Reason for Emotion Regulation Definition Example
Hedonic Seek positive emotions, avoid negative emotions After receiving a poor exam grade, going to a comedy show with friends.
Performance-Improving Feel a specific emotion to improve performance Listen to calming music before a swim meet
Pro-Social Emotion regulation within a relationship context When your friend is sad, redirecting their attention to a funny joke.
Self-Protective Feel a specific emotion to protect the self or close other Express anger toward a threatening individual
Impression Management Experience or express an emotion to maintain a favorable view of the self Smile when we do not receive an award during a ceremony


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