Effective regulation of affect: An action control perspective on emotion regulation

Thomas L. Webb, Inge Schweiger Gallo, Eleanor Miles, Peter M. Gollwitzer, Paschal Sheeran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The present review adopts an action control perspective on emotion regulation, contextualising the gap between emotion control goals (e.g., I want to remain calm) and emotional outcomes (e.g., anger, anxiety, and aggression) in terms of the broader literature on goal pursuit. We propose that failure to effectively regulate emotions can result from difficulties with the self-regulatory tasks of (i) identifying the need to regulate, (ii) deciding whether and how to regulate, and (iii) enacting a regulation strategy. Next we review evidence that a technique traditionally associated with regulating behavioural goals (forming implementation intentions or 'if-then' planning) can help to overcome these difficulties. Meta-analysis indicated that forming implementation intentions is effective in modifying emotional outcomes, with a large effect relative to no regulation instructions (k = 21, N = 1306 d + = 0.91, 95% CI = 0.61 to 1.20) and a medium-sized effect relative to goal intention instructions (k = 29, N = 1208, d + = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.42 to 0.65). Our conclusion is that research on emotion regulation might benefit from an action control perspective and the interventions that this perspective offers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-186
Number of pages44
JournalEuropean Review of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Action control
  • Affect regulation
  • Emotion regulation
  • Implementation intentions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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