A Laboratory Investigation of Mindfulness and Reappraisal As Emotion Regulation Strategies
Effective emotion regulation plays an important role in psychological health. Two commonly-researched emotion regulation strategies are reappraisal, a cognitive change-based strategy, and mindfulness, an acceptance-based strategy. Although their potential in facilitating adaptive emotion regulation has been empirically demonstrated, little work has directly compared their cognitive and emotion regulatory effects, particularly in a symptomatic population. Using an analogue depressed sample, this study examined the relative effects of mindfulness and reappraisal in reducing sad mood and whether individual differences in trait mindfulness and habitual use of reappraisal moderated the effects. The study also compared the extent to which implementation of these strategies incurred cognitive resources and affected attitudes towards negative experiences. One hundred and twenty-nine participants were randomly assigned to receive training in mindfulness, reappraisal, or no training prior to undergoing an autobiographical sad mood induction. Following mood induction, participants rated their sadness on a visual analog scale before completing a Stroop test. Results showed that mindfulness and reappraisal were superior to no training, and equivalent in their effects in lowering sad moods. Compared to the mindfulness group, the reappraisal group reported significantly higher Stroop interference scores, reflecting greater depletion of cognitive resources. Higher trait mindfulness predicted greater reductions in sadness in the reappraisal group, but not in the mindfulness group. Habitual reappraisal did not moderate the effects of either mindfulness or reappraisal. Mindfulness, relative to reappraisal or no training, resulted in significant increases in acceptance of negative experiences and decreases in maladaptive beliefs about rumination. Overall, the study suggests that although mindfulness and reappraisal are equally effective in down-regulating sad mood, they incur different levels of cognitive costs and lead to differential changes in attitudes towards negative experiences.
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