ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (5): 482-494.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00482

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The male advantage in regulating negative emotion by expressive suppression: An event-related potential study

CAI Ayan1; YANG Jiemin1; XU Shuang2; YUAN Jiajin1   

  1. (1 Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality of Ministry of Education (Southwest University); School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China) (2 School of Educational Science, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001, China)
  • Received:2015-04-02 Published:2016-05-25 Online:2016-05-25
  • Contact: YUAN Jiajin, E-mail: yuan_jiajin@126.com或


Life experiences and empirical studies both indicate that males are less emotionally expressive and also more often copies stress with suppression than females. Thus, males may outperform females in regulating unplesant emotions by expressive suppression. However, though there are aboundant observational researches showing more frequent suppression of emotional expressions in men than in women, there is no direct evidence showing that males are better than females in dampenin negative emotions by expressive suppression. On the other hand, no consistent sex differences were found regarding the emotion regulation by reappraisal. Therefore, we hypothesized that males may be better than females in regulating negative emotion by expressive suppression, but not by reappraisal. The current study experimentally investigated the sex differences in suppression and cognitive reappraisal. In our study, 35 participants 17 males, 18 females) performed a picture viewing task. The experiment included 4blocks which consisted of 2 viewing blocks and 2 regulating blocks. In attending blocks, participants just attended to neutral or negative pictures; whereas, in regulating blocks, participants were instructed to intentionally suppress the expression of emotional responses to pictures of cognitively reappraise pictures (e.g. think of pictures objectively). Event-Related brain Potentials (ERP) were recorded for the presentation of pictures. An the end of each block, subjects were required to rate their mood state and the success of attending to, suppressing, or reappraising the pictures by a self-report scale. Between blocks, two minutes of rest were taken for subjects to recover mood to the baseline level and to avoid fatigue. Behavioral results showed that both sexes did not differ in reports of emotional experiences after regulating unpleasant emotions using suppression or reappraisal. In electrophysiological results, Late Positive Potential (LPP), a posterior-parietal positive slow ERP, showed significantly more pronounced amplitudes during attending to negative relative to neutral pictures. More importantly, we observed interaction effects of regulating strategies and sex in the amplitudes of middle (2000~3000 ms) and late (3000~4000 ms) LPP windows. Males were associated with significantly smaller LPP amplitudes during expressive suppression relative to attending conditions in the 2000~4000 ms time window, whereas this emotion regulation effect was absent in females. By contrast, LPP amplitudes were similar for reappraisal and attending conditions in all time windows, irrespective of sex.

Key words: sex difference, expressive suppression, cognitive reappraisal, Late Positive Potential