The road to resilience: The role of cognitive flexibility in emotion regulation and stress resilience

01 October 2017 → 30 June 2021
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Biological psychology
    • Psychopathology
    • Motivation and emotion
cognitive flexibility Resilience emotion regulation
Project description

Everyone experiences emotionally challenging events in life, but it remains unclear why for some

people this causes sustained distress, while others can regulate their emotions and adapt to a

changing situation. Cognitive flexibility, the ability to flexibly adapt one’ thoughts in response to

events, is important in the context of such emotional events. While cognitive flexibility has been

related to resilience and effective emotion regulation, cognitive inflexibility is observed across

several psychiatric disorders. Understanding the role of cognitive flexibility in emotion regulation is

essential because effective emotion regulation facilitates resilience while maladaptive emotion

regulation underlies several psychiatric disorders. However, current research is mostly crosssectional.

This project aims to further investigate the role of cognitive flexibility in emotion

regulation and stress resilience. First, we will use a prospective and experimental design with

neurostimulation to clarify the causal role of the ability to be cognitive flexible in experienced

mental distress, resilience and emotion regulation. Second, we will analyse how the propensity to

adopt a more flexible cognitive style in response to a (changing) context relates to emotion

regulation and resilience in both a healthy sample and a clinical sample with emotion regulation

impairments. Findings from the project could be relevant for development of more sophisticated

therapeutic and prevention programmes.