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date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the relation between normative advances and emerging individual differences in emotion regulation (ER), using principles from developmental cognitive neuroscience to integrate these seemingly disparate processes. Like several other theorists, I view corticolimbic development as a self-organizing stream of synaptic alterations, driven by experience rather than biologically prespecified. This conceptualization helps resolve ambiguities that appear when we try, but consistently fail, to neatly parse individual differences and developmental differences. At the neural level, increasingly specific patterns of synaptic activation converge in response to (or in anticipation of) recurrent emotions, creating synaptic networks that link multiple regions. These networks regulate emotions (in real time). But they also stabilize and consolidate with repetition, thus giving rise to habits that are the hallmark of individual development. These configurations are progressively sculpted through individual learning experiences, but they also become increasingly effective with use, thereby expressing both individual trajectories and normative advances as they develop. In sum, experience-driven synaptic changes create a repertoire of individual solutions to universal challenges, shared among members of a culture or society. This description casts individual differences and age-related advances as dual facets of a unitary developmental process.

Keywords: cognition-emotion, cognitive appraisal, normative stages, emotion regulation, experience-dependent synaptic change, individual differences, neurodevelopment, personality development, self-organization, stages of development, synaptic networks

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