Trying to stop thinking unwanted, often repetitive thoughts is a familiar experience. However, being aware of such attempts implies that the thought has already reached consciousness. Can we preempt an unwanted thought from coming to mind in the first place?
Given the extent of inequality in the world, it is surprising that protests are rare. It seems that even those who are not happy with the sociopolitical institutions and arrangements on which they depend do not participate in protests. Why do individuals who are dissatisfied with the system do not engage in efforts to create social change?
One reason for inaction might be the way individuals manage their feelings. Although emotion regulation might benefit personal health, it may have some negative consequences for promoting social change. A new study by Nevin Solak, Maya Tamir, Nebi Sümer, John T. Jost, and Eran Halperin shows that a widely used emotion regulation strategy- expressive suppression-can undermine efforts to change unjust systems even among people who wish to challenge the status quo. Across four studies conducted in three different countries (the US, Israel, Turkey), the authors found that people who are dissatisfied with social, economic, and political institutions and arrangements but regulate their negative emotions through expressive suppression are less likely to express negative emotions and, in turn, are less supportive of protests. These findings suggest that engaging in demonstrations depends not only on how people feel but also on how they manage their emotions.
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