Individual Differences in Expressive Suppression and the Subjective Experience, Verbal Disclosure, and Behavioral Expression of Anger

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Expressive suppression reflects one's tendency to inhibit the behavioral expression of emotion. Despite voluminous research on expressive suppression, we are aware of no study examining its relation to anger as a discrete emotion. Participants (N = 97) completed measures of expressive suppression and trait anger, and they viewed two anger-inducing and two non-anger film clips. During each film clip, participants’ faces were video recorded and later coded for the behavioral expression of anger. After each film clip, participants rated their subjective experience of anger, and they wrote about their experiences; computerized text analyses measured the verbal disclosure of anger. ANOVAs revealed that film type interacted with expressive suppression for subjective experience of anger and behavioral expression of anger even while controlling for trait anger; expressive suppression was negatively associated with subjective experience and behavioral expression of anger with respect to the anger-inducing films but not the non-anger films. Verbal disclosure of anger was not associated with expressive suppression. This lab study confirmed that general expressive suppression has implications for the experience and behavioral expression of anger, and it suggests value in extending this general individual-difference variable to the realm of discrete emotions.


This article was originally published as Sullivan, S. D., & Kahn, J. H. (2020). Individual differences in expressive suppression and the subjective experience, verbal disclosure, and behavioral expression of anger. Personality and Individual Differences, 155.