Emotion Regulation Through Distancing: Developing a Novel Neurocognitive Model
Distancing is a type of emotion regulation that involves simulating a new perspective to alter the psychological distance and emotional impact of a stimulus. The effectiveness and versatility of distancing make it a promising skill for clinical applications. However, the specific neurocognitive mechanisms of this emotion regulation tactic are poorly defined relative to the broader strategy of reappraisal. More focused investigation of these mechanisms would promote further understanding of the processes underlying distancing and potentially improve its applications. Therefore, I first synthesized literature on the component processes of distancing to propose a preliminary neurocognitive model. I tested the neural architecture of this model through a meta-analysis of fMRI literature, and then further validated and refined it by comparing three forms of distancing in an fMRI study. Finally, I investigated self-projection and its relation to the left temporoparietal junction using transcranial magnetic stimulation. The results of this work supported the neural architecture of the proposed model and suggested subtle differences in the recruitment of parietal regions across forms of distancing. No conclusions could be drawn regarding the specific functional contribution of the left temporoparietal junction, but I found that distancing performance was facilitated by repeated use, reinforcing the utility of this tactic for applied contexts. This model contributes new insights into the neurocognitive mechanisms of distancing, informs the optimal use of this tactic, and provides a framework for future research and interventions.
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