I just had the pleasure of reading a post on Jim Coan's new blog "Our Social Ecology", where Jim discusses the metaphor that humans might be the cheetahs of self-control. Interesting stuff and I am looking forward to reading the ongoing thread and recommend it highly.
Personally, I am fascinated by the recent interest in the regulation of emotion among emotion researchers. For me it is sort of a back to the roots. My PhD supervisor John Lanzetta (shown on the picture) was an engineer by training and he had the tendency to look not at just things, but at systems of things. How things interact. Not just what they do, but what makes them do what they do. Being more and more interested in emotions, John was fascinated in what we do to emotions, what emotions do to us, what we do to others and what others do to us. He did not focus so much on individuals, but at systems of individuals.
The topic of my thesis, at the time, in the late eighties, was "Control of Emotion". Basically, I was interested in how regulating facial activity impacts not only what we feel, but also our bodily responses. I looked also at distraction via breathing at different rates, at counting at different rates, but also what would happen to our feeling and bodily responses if we just put on a face, or breathed at a particular rate. In the next few days, I will talk a little bit about my own research in this area, as well as that of some colleagues, and I will later discuss the concept of auto-regulation of emotions - something I am currently writing about.
Arvid Kappas is Professor of Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen. He has been conducting research on emotions for over three decades in the US, Canada, and in several European countries.