Repression involves distancing oneself from psychologically threatening ideas, emotions, memories, or experiences (Breuer & Freud, 1925/1955). Negative emotional events have provided the principal means by which to define repressive coping style and investigate repressive social behavior. The major objective of this research project is to test, using a nonclinical sample, a model of repression (Mendolia, Moore, & Tesser, 1996) which posits that features of the person (individual differences in responsiveness to negative and positive emotional events) and the situation (social threats to self-evaluation) combine to produce repressive behavior. According to the model, repressors are hypersensitive to both negative and positive emotional events, but they distance themselves from these events only under specific conditions-namely, when the situation threatens their self-evaluation. Thus, it is possible to identify the motivation for repressive response and to explain why repressors psychologically distance themselves from threatening emotional events more often than do nonrepressors. Furthermore, the proposed model addresses recent evidence (Asendorpf & Scherer, 1983; Davis, 1987; Davis & Schwartz, 1987; C.H. Hansen, Hansen, & Shantz, 1992) suggesting that repressors react more strongly to, fail to recall, and discretely appraise positive emotional events.
The specific aims of this project are to demonstrate that (1) a motivational mechanism (individual differences in responsiveness, as indexed by autonomic activity, facial expressiveness, encoding, and recognition memory) and a situational mechanism (social situational threats to self-evaluation) underlay repressive behavior (Experiments 1 and 2) and that (2) a causal relationship exists between these two mechanisms and repressive behavior. The causal relationship will be demonstrated by manipulating individual differences in autonomic responsiveness (Experiments 3) and attention (Experiment 5) and repressors' cognitive appraisal of the situation (Experiment 4). This proposed 2-factor model extends the current conceptualization of repression in that it addresses why and when repressors employ a perceptual defense in response to negative and positive emotional events. This exploration of repressive behavior and the potential for modifying repressive response has significant health implications in that repressors' failure to recognize their somatic distress has been found to be associated with a wide range of illnesses (e.g., asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer).
|Mendolia, Marilyn (2016) Repressors benefit from reappraising a threatening emotional event. Anxiety Stress Coping 29:80-99|
|Mendolia, Marilyn (2002) An index of self-regulation of emotion and the study of repression in social contexts that threaten or do not threaten self-concept. Emotion 2:215-32|