A recent study has reported that the successful implementation of cognitive regulation of emotion depends on higher-level cognitive functions, such as top-down control, which may be impaired in stressful situations. This calls for “cognition free” self-regulatory strategies that do not require top-down control. In contrast to the cognitive regulation of emotion that emphasizes the role of cognition, traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine views the relationship among different types of emotions as promoting or counteracting each other without the involvement of cognition, which provides an insightful perspective for developing “cognition free” regulatory strategies. In this study, we examined two hypotheses regarding the modulation of anger and aggressive behavior: sadness counteracts anger and aggressive behavior, whereas fear promotes anger and aggressive behavior. Participants were first provoked by reading extremely negative feedback on their viewpoints (Study 1) and by watching anger-inducing movie clips (Study 2). Then, these angry participants were assigned to three equivalent groups and viewed sad, fear-inducing, or neutral materials to evoke the corresponding emotions. The results showed that participants displayed a lower level of aggressive behavior when sadness was later induced and a higher level of anger when fear was later induced. These results provide evidence that supports the hypothesis of mutual promotion and counteraction relationships among these types of emotions and imply a “cognition free” approach to regulating anger and aggressive behavior.
Zhan, J., Ren, J., Fan, J. & Luo, J. (2015). Distinctive effects of fear and sadness induction on anger and aggressive behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 725. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00725.