The Social Regulation of Emotion and its Importance for Human Health

Lancaster, Katie, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Morris, James, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Social support is critical to health. A recent estimate of the importance of social support’s effects on health outcomes has demonstrated it is an equivalent or stronger predictor than cigarette smoking or physical inactivity (1). Social support is thought to benefit health by buffering stress and reducing negative affect (e.g., 2–5), but the specific socio-biological mediators of this effect still need to be identified. I believe that it is the engagement of emotion regulation strategies that mediates the relationship between social support and susceptibility to disease. Individuals differ in their ability to use the support of a trusted other to downregulate negative affect. This process, known as the social regulation of emotion, is an understudied phenomenon, particularly insofar as it relates to health. My dissertation work is a highly multidisciplinary attempt to shed light on this issue. I present data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), psychophysiology, genetics, and behavioral experiments in order to examine individual differences in ability to socially regulate emotions and how this in turn impacts well-being.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
social support, emotion regulation, social emotion regulation, health, oxytocin
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