Acceptance and Cognitive Restructuring : Analyses and comparisons from an emotion regulation perspective

Sammanfattning: The general aim of the present thesis was to further our understanding of cognitive restructuring and acceptance, both as concepts and as psychological processes related to emotion regulation. In doing this, concepts and processes related to cognitive restructuring and acceptance were examined in four different studies using different designs and methodologies. The main purpose of Study I was to experimentally compare the experiential and physiological consequences of cognitive reappraisal and acceptance as emotion regulation strategies with regard to aversive emotions elicited by film-clips and how the different emotion regulation strategies influenced tendencies of behavioral avoidance. The outcome pattern supported our hypotheses that both acceptance and reappraisal would be adaptive regulatory strategies in the given context when compared to the control condition. With regard to behavioral avoidance, our hypotheses were confirmed both in that cognitive reappraisal as well as acceptance led to significantly reduced behavioral avoidance (i.e. unwillingness to view the same film-clip again) in comparison to the control condition, and since there was a stronger association between elicited aversive emotion and avoidance in the reappraisal than in the acceptance condition. The purpose of Study II was to empirically test the suggestion that experiential avoidance in an emotion regulation context is best understood as an emotion regulatory function of topographically distinct strategies. To do this we examined whether a measure of experiential avoidance could statistically account for the effects of emotion regulation strategies intervening at different points of the emotion generating process as conceptualized by Gross’ (1998) process model of emotion regulation. The results showed the predicted outcome pattern only for the response focused strategy response suppression and not for the antecedent focused strategies of cognitive reappraisal and behavioral avoidance. Study III explored the constructs of cognitive restructuring and acceptance using items from well-established measures of the respective constructs in order to determine what subcategories or conceptual nuances that could be empirically detected, and examined these factors’ relationship to each other and to positive and negative emotionality, quality of life and clinical status. Exploratory factor analyses in a non-clinical sample rendered the factors “Thought Avoidance”, “Active Acceptance” and “Resignation”, loading on the higher order factor of “Acceptance”, and the factors “Constructive Refocusing”, “Cognitive Reappraisal” and “Distractive Refocusing”, loading on the higher order factor of “Cognitive Restructuring”. This factor structure was validated by confirmatory factor analyses in both another non clinical and a clinical sample. Finally, the purpose of Study IV was to use a person-oriented approach to test hypotheses regarding how the emotion regulation identified in Study III combine at the level of the individual. In addition, the study examined how homogenous subgroups of individuals characterized by different profiles of cognitive restructuring and acceptance strategies differ in terms psychological well-being. Nine distinct clusters were identified, and the general outcome pattern supported the suggestion that the two types of strategies can be seen as different but compatible forms of emotion regulation that can be combined in a variety of ways at the level of the individual. The findings from the study also lend support to the suggestions that the acceptance or non-acceptance of aversive private events are of particular clinical importance and that the effects of other strategies are significantly affected by whether or not they are combined with experiential avoidance or acceptance.