by Catherine N. M. Ortner, Monica de Koning
Previous research has suggested that regulating emotions through reappraisal does not incur cognitive costs. However, in those experiments, cognitive costs were often assessed by recognition memory for information that was contextually related to the emotionally evocative stimuli and may have been incorporated into the reappraisal script, facilitating memory. Furthermore, there is little research on the cognitive correlates of regulating positive emotions. In the current experiment, we tested memory for information that was contextually unrelated to the emotional stimuli and could not easily be related to the reappraisal. Participants viewed neutral and mildly positive slides and either reappraised, suppressed their emotions, or viewed the images with no emotion regulation instruction. At the same time, they heard abstract words that were unrelated to the picture stimuli. Subsequent verbal recognition memory was lower after reappraising than viewing, whereas non-verbal recognition memory (of the slides) was higher after reappraising, but only for positive pictures and when participants viewed the positive pictures first. Suppression had no significant effect on either verbal or non-verbal recognition scores, although there was a trend towards poorer recognition of verbal information. The findings support the notion that reappraisal is effortful and draws on limited cognitive resources, causing decrements in performance in a concurrent memory task.