Date of Graduation
Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)
Second Committee Member
Emotion, Emotion Regulation
The beliefs individuals hold about emotions have been shown to influence their tendencies to avoid distressing situations. While much of the work to-date has been on beliefs about whether emotions can be changed (i.e., malleability beliefs), there is research suggesting that the belief that emotions last for long periods of time (i.e., longevity beliefs) have important implications for emotion regulation (Veilleux et al., 2020). Thus, our aim was to examine the relationship between longevity beliefs and experiential avoidance. We predicted that greater longevity beliefs would be associated with greater avoidance tendencies, and that stronger beliefs in the moment would also be associated with greater momentary urges to avoid. In a Pilot Study, university students completed individual difference measures of beliefs about emotion and experiential avoidance. Results revealed that the belief that one’s emotions last for long periods of time (i.e., longevity) and the belief that emotions are bad/destructive (i.e., judgment) were the strongest unique predictors of self-reported experiential avoidance. Study 1 assessed a different sample of college students with (n = 52) and without (n = 50) borderline personality disorder and replicated the findings from Study 1, suggesting that judgment and longevity beliefs are the most salient beliefs linked with experiential avoidance. Study 2 also included an ecological momentary assessment component in which participants completed random prompts up to seven times per day where they identified if they were feeling subjectively worse than usual and answered questions about momentary emotion beliefs, intensity of their negative affect, and attempts/urges to avoid. Multilevel model analyses examined the relationship between momentary longevity beliefs and behavioral avoidance during “worse” emotional episodes. Results showed that greater person-centered momentary beliefs about longevity predicted greater attempts to escape the distressing situation, after controlling for intensity of negative affect. Studies 3a through 3d included studies which attempted to shift beliefs about emotion and to, subsequently, examine the relationship between longevity beliefs and experiential avoidance. We were able to shift beliefs about emotion to be more maladaptive using fictitious feedback from a survey, but these beliefs were not associated with perceived behavioral avoidance. These results suggest that beliefs that emotions last for long periods of time are linked with individuals’ choices to avoid distress. Implications are discussed.
Warner, E. (2022). The Influence of Beliefs about Emotion on Avoidance Behaviors. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/4764
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