Mental fatigue impairs emotion regulation

Christian Grillon, David Quispe-Escudero, Ambika Mathur, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Because healthy physical and mental functioning depends on the ability to regulate emotions, it is important to identify moderators of such regulations. Whether mental fatigue, subsequent to the depletion of cognitive resources, impairs explicit emotion regulation to negative stimuli is currently unknown. This study explored this possibility. In a within-subject design over 2 separate sessions, healthy individuals performed easy (control session) or difficult (depletion session) cognitive tasks. Subsequently, they were presented with neutral and negative pictures, with instructions to either maintain or regulate (i.e., reduce) the emotions evoked by the pictures. Emotional reactivity was probed with the startle reflex. The negative pictures evoked a similar aversive state in the control and depletion sessions as measured by startle potentiation. However, subjects were able to down-regulate their aversive state only in the control session, not in the depletion session. These results indicate that mental fatigue following performance of cognitive tasks impairs emotion regulation without affecting emotional reactivity. These findings suggest that mental fatigue needs to be incorporated into models of emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-389
Number of pages7
JournalEmotion
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Keywords

  • Ego depletion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Mental fatigue
  • Startle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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