Emotion regulation in romantic relationships: The cognitive consequences of concealing feelings

Jane M. Richards, Emily A. Butler, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

241 Scopus citations


People frequently regulate the emotions that arise during tense social interactions. Common regulation strategies include cognitive reappraisal, which involves interpreting a situation in positive terms, and expressive suppression, which involves inhibiting overt signs of inner emotional states. According to our analysis, during tense social interactions reappraisal should (i) increase memory for what was said, whereas suppression should (ii) decrease memory for what was said, and (iii) increase memory for emotions. To test these predictions, we experimentally manipulated reappraisal and suppression in dating couples as they discussed a relationship conflict. As predicted, memory for conversation utterances was increased by reappraisal and decreased by suppression, and memory for emotional reactions was increased by suppression. Self-monitoring mediated the effect of suppression on memory for emotional reactions, but not for conversation utterances. These findings suggest that, if it is important to preserve the fidelity of cognitive functioning during emotionally trying social interactions, some forms of emotion regulation may have more to recommend them than others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-620
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2003


  • Affect
  • Conflict
  • Conversation
  • Emotion
  • Interpersonal
  • Memory
  • Regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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