Both reappraisal and suppression are commonly used to regulate emotions in everyday life.
The participants in the study were taught both techniques. During the experiment they would lie down in an MRI scanner, which depicted the neural activity in their brains while they viewed various 15-second video clips on a screen 6 inches from their face. A camera poised next to the video screen recorded their facial expression, capturing their every twitch and grimace. Participants also rated how they felt immediately after viewing each clip.
The researchers played forty 15-second video clips. Ten were of neutral images, such as landscapes and nature scenes, and 30 were "disgust-inducing"-scenes of "surgical procedures, vomiting and animal slaughter," said James Gross, associate professor of psychology and senior author of the paper. "It's pretty awful stuff." But, he emphasized, necessary.
"In order to understand what happens when people control intense emotions in everyday life," Gross said, "we needed to induce potent emotions in the scanner so that we could see what parts of the brain are activated both by the emotion itself and by the efforts to regulate that emotion."
The vision of a lone patient in a medical laboratory, lying stock still on a table poised in a narrow tunnel through the center of a huge cube of a machine, smooth-sided and whitely sterile, with head held in place as disgusting videos unfold on a screen 6 inches from her eyeballs, may seem a little reminiscent of the reprogramming scenes in A Clockwork Orange. But the researchers actually took great care to avoid traumatizing anyone.
They screened their test subjects to keep the pool to those who would not be overwhelmed by the disgusting imagery (and excluded those who claimed they would be emotionally unmoved by it). Partic
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