Emotion regulation and prejudice reduction following acute terrorist events: The impact of reflection before and after the Boston Marathon bombings

Rachel R. Steele, Daniel R. Rovenpor, Brian Lickel, Thomas F. Denson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Research suggests that regulating negative emotional responses to threatening events can help reduce outgroup bias. The present research examined the effect of emotion regulation strategies on outgroup bias during relatively benign versus threatening time periods. Participants were assigned to regulate their emotions (reflection, rumination, or control) while reading a reminder of a past terrorist event and then reported their anger and bias toward Muslims. The bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon occurred during data collection, which allowed us to examine the effect of emotion regulation on bias before versus after these events via a 3 (emotion regulation) x 2 (timing of bombings) between-subjects design. A two-way interaction between emotion regulation condition and timing emerged on bias and anger. Reflection (compared to rumination or control) reduced bias and anger toward Muslims but only after the bombings. The reduction in anger mediated the effect of reflection on bias only after the bombings. The results provide evidence that reflection is effective at reducing bias when people are experiencing an intense outgroup threat.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalGroup Processes & Intergroup Relations
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • anti-Muslim bias
  • Boston Marathon bombing
  • emotion regulation
  • prejudice reduction
  • terrorism

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