The Effects of Automatic Emotion Regulation on the Desirability Bias

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The goal of the present investigation was to explore the effects of automatic emotion regulation on the desirability bias. The desirability bias is the tendency to believe that one will experience desirable outcomes and not experience undesirable outcomes. Previous research has demonstrated that the desirability bias is due to affective reactions to potential events. Further, deliberate emotion regulation has been shown to reduce the desirability bias. The present investigation explored whether the desirability bias can be reduced by priming a nonconscious goal to regulate emotion before experience of affective reactions to an event. Participants were primed to either express or regulate their emotions before playing a game of chance where cards could result in positive, negative or neutral outcomes. Results showed that the method of priming emotion regulation or expression did not effectively elicit nonconscious goals. Because the manipulation was not effective, the effect of automatic emotion regulation on the desirability bias could not be examined and there was no effect of the prime on bias. Despite the failed manipulation, the findings are still beneficial to the desirability bias literature in that they demonstrate a clear desirability bias in participants' predictions with the use of a within-subjects design. A follow up study using a stronger prime of regulation to test the influence of automatic emotion regulation in reducing the desirability bias is discussed.