Anger can be the most socially debilitating of the basic emotions, and effective and simple techniques for managing anger are much needed. Autobiographical recall is a powerful method for emotion elicitation, with obvious clinical utility. However, the content of the material elicited, most notably the variable of relationship type, has not been systematically studied. The present study investigated the effectiveness of the Affective Story Recall task for anger elicitation, using 5 relationship categories (family, partner, friend, stranger, abstract) and the effectiveness of 2 emotion regulation (ER) techniques: reappraisal and distraction. Fifty-two neurologically healthy adults completed a series of anger elicitation and regulation tasks, several measures of cognitive ability, and questionnaires on attachment styles and the use of ER techniques. Most relationship categories selectively elicited anger, with some categories (e.g., stranger) eliciting especially high levels. Both reappraisal and distraction reduced anger intensity across all relationship categories. However, distraction was particularly effective for strangers. Distraction effectiveness was predicted by the regular use of this ER technique, attachment style, and age, but cognitive factors played no significant role. These findings have implications for rehabilitation, allowing clinicians to tailor interventions to patients’ strengths and weaknesses.

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