Microinterventions targeting regulatory focus and regulatory fit selectively reduce dysphoric and anxious mood.


Depression and generalized anxiety, separately and as comorbid states, continue to represent a significant public health challenge. Current cognitive-behavioral treatments are clearly beneficial but there remains a need for continued development of complementary interventions. This manuscript presents two proof-of-concept studies, in analog samples, of "microinterventions" derived from regulatory focus and regulatory fit theories and targeting dysphoric and anxious symptoms. In Study 1, participants with varying levels of dysphoric and/or anxious mood were exposed to a brief intervention either to increase or to reduce engagement in personal goal pursuit, under the hypothesis that dysphoria indicates under-engagement of the promotion system whereas anxiety indicates over-engagement of the prevention system. In Study 2, participants with varying levels of dysphoric and/or anxious mood received brief training in counterfactual thinking, under the hypothesis that inducing individuals in a state of promotion failure to generate subtractive counterfactuals for past failures (a non-fit) will lessen their dejection/depression-related symptoms, whereas inducing individuals in a state of prevention failure to generate additive counterfactuals for past failures (a non-fit) will lessen their agitation/anxiety-related symptoms. In both studies, we observed discriminant patterns of reduction in distress consistent with the hypothesized links between dysfunctional states of the two motivational systems and dysphoric versus anxious symptoms.





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Publication Info

Strauman, Timothy J, Yvonne Socolar, Lori Kwapil, James FM Cornwell, Becca Franks, Steen Sehnert and E Tory Higgins (2015). Microinterventions targeting regulatory focus and regulatory fit selectively reduce dysphoric and anxious mood. Behav Res Ther, 72. pp. 18–29. 10.1016/j.brat.2015.06.003 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/13840.

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Timothy J. Strauman

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

FOR POTENTIAL STUDENTS (fall 2024 class): 

Dr. Timothy Strauman and Dr. Ann Brewster will be seeking to admit a student for Fall 2024 who will be an important member of their collaborative projects. Dr. Brewster is an intervention scientist and a faculty member in Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. The collaborative projects focus on creating, testing, and implementing school-based therapeutic and preventive interventions for adolescents at risk for negative academic and mental health outcomes. We are partnering with the Durham Public Schools as well as with other local school districts, and Dr. Brewster has extensive experience and expertise in developing the partnerships, working with community members, and the intervention process itself. We are especially interested in applicants with experience in community-based interventions, with interests in adolescence, and with knowledge and experience working with both behavioral and neuroimaging data.

Professor Strauman's research focuses on the psychological and neurobiological processes that enable self-regulation, conceptualized in terms of a cognitive/motivational perspective, as well as the relation between self-regulation and affect. Particular areas of emphasis include: (1) conceptualizing self-regulation in terms of brain/behavior motivational systems; (2) the role of self-regulatory cognitive processes in vulnerability to depression and other disorders; (3) the impact of treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medication, on self-regulatory function and dysfunction in depression; (4) how normative and non-normative socialization patterns influence the development of self-regulatory systems; (5) the contributory roles of self-regulation, affect, and psychopathology in determining immunologically-mediated susceptibility to illness; (6) development of novel multi-component treatments for depression targeting self-regulatory dysfunction; (7) utilization of brain imaging techniques to test hypotheses concerning self-regulation, including the nature and function of hypothetical regulatory systems and characterizing the breakdowns in self-regulation that lead to and accompany depression.

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