Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Jennifer C. Veilleux

Committee Member

Denise R. Beike

Second Committee Member

Timothy A. Cavell

Keywords

Psychology; Acceptance; Appraisal; Emotion; Experimental; Mindfulness

Abstract

The present study was designed to provide empirical tests of some of the mechanisms thought to operate in mindfulness-based treatments. Specifically, I tested the hypothesis that appraising distress judgmentally (as a needless and useless indication of personal weakness) would be associated with experiencing meta-distress (e.g., feeling ashamed about being distressed), which would, in turn, be associated with increased experiential avoidance (i.e., suppression or distraction from the distress) and shorter distress tolerance. In addition, I examined the hypothesis that compassionately appraising distress (as normal, understandable, and potentially a source of growth) would be associated with spending more time curiously exploring that distress and thereby be associated with being able to tolerate distress for longer periods of time. Finally, I examined the prediction that compassionately appraising distress would be associated with even greater curious exploration and distress tolerance than viewing distress from a distanced perspective (as a passing mental event), which is often taught along side or as a prerequisite for compassionate appraisal. One-hundred-sixty-seven psychologically healthy college students and members of the academic community at a large Mid Southern University underwent a series of distress inductions and were told to either simply monitor their level of distress (Awareness), judgmentally appraise distress (Judgment), maintain a distanced perspective from distress (Distancing), or compassionately appraise distress while also maintaining a distanced perspective (Compassion). As expected, some support was found for the hypothesis that compassionately appraising distress was associated with greater curious investigation of distress, if not longer distress tolerance. Moreover, compassionately appraising distress was associated with greater curious investigation than simply viewing distress from a distanced perspective, but only for the idiographic sadness induction. Hypotheses regarding the impact of judgmental appraisal could not be fairly evaluated in the present study, as it appeared that the judgment manipulation failed to sufficiently alter behavior.

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