Cognition and Emotion Lecture at the 2010 SPSP Emotion Preconference

Cognition and Emotion 25 (5):765-781 (2011)
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Abstract

One of the most fundamental distinctions in the field of emotion is the distinction between emotion generation and emotion regulation. This distinction fits comfortably with folk theories, which view emotions as passions that arise unbidden and then must be controlled. But is it really helpful to distinguish between emotion generation and emotion regulation? In this article, we begin by offering working definitions of emotion generation and emotion regulation. We argue that in some circumstances, the distinction between emotion generation and emotion regulation is indeed useful. We point both to citation patterns, which indicate that researchers from across a number of sub-areas within psychology are making this distinction, and to empirical studies, which indicate the utility of this distinction in many different research contexts. We then consider five ways in which the distinction between emotion generation and emotion regulation can be problematic. We suggest that it is time to move beyond debates about whether this distinction is useful to a more specific consideration of when and in what ways this distinction is useful, and in this spirit, we offer recommendations for future research.

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