Advertisement

Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 493–500 | Cite as

The Impact of Experiential Avoidance on the Inference of Characters’ Emotions: Evidence for an Emotional Processing Bias

  • Scott M. Pickett
  • Christopher A. Kurby
Original Article

Abstract

Experiential avoidance is a functional class of maladaptive strategies that contribute to the development and maintenance of psychopathology. Although previous research has demonstrated group differences in the interpretation of aversive stimuli, there is limited work on the influence of experiential avoidance during the online processing of emotion. An experimental design was used to investigate the influence of self-reported experiential avoidance during emotion processing by assessing emotion inferences during the comprehension of narratives that imply different emotions. Results suggest that experiential avoidance is partially characterized by an emotional information processing bias. Specifically, individuals reporting higher experiential avoidance scores exhibited a bias towards activating negative emotion inferences, whereas individuals reporting lower experiential avoidance scores exhibited a bias towards activating positive emotion inferences. Minimal emotional inference was observed for the non-bias affective valence. Findings are discussed in terms of the implications of experiential avoidance as a cognitive vulnerability for psychopathology.

Keywords

Experiential avoidance Emotion knowledge activation Emotion bias Cognitive vulnerability 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Data were collected while the first author was a graduate student at Northern Illinois University. We would like to thank M. Anne Britt, Ph.D. and Holly K. Orcutt, Ph.D. for comments on an early version of this project. Preparation of this manuscript was partially supported by grant T32 AG000030–31 from the National Institutes of Health.

References

  1. Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, A. T., & Clark, D. A. (1997). An information processing model of anxiety: Automatic and strategic processes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35, 49–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bond, F. W., Hayes, S. C., Baer, R. A., Carpenter, K. M., Orcutt, H. K., Waltz, T., & Zettle, R. D. (under review). Preliminary psychometric properties of the acceptance and action questionnaire—II: A revised measure of psychological flexibility and acceptance.Google Scholar
  4. Chan, S. W. Y., Goodwin, G. M., & Harmer, C. J. (2007). Highly neurotic never-depressed students have negative biases in information processing. Psychological Medicine, 37, 1281–1291.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Chawla, N., & Ostafin, B. (2007). Experiential avoidance as a functional dimensional approach to psychopathology: An empirical review. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 63, 871–890.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cochrane, A., Barnes-Holmes, D., Barnes-Holmes, Y., Stewart, I., & Luciano, C. (2007). Experiential avoidance and aversive visual images: Response delays and event related potentials on a simple matching task. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45(6), 1379–1388.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Derakshan, N., Eysenck, M. W., & Myers, L. B. (2007). Emotional information processing in repressors: The vigilance-avoidance theory. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 1585–1614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Feldner, M. T., Hekmat, H., Zvolensky, M. J., Vowles, K. E., Secrist, Z., & Leen-Feldner, E. W. (2006). The role of experiential avoidance in acute pain tolerance: A laboratory test. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 37, 146–158.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Feldner, M. T., Zvolensky, M. J., Eifert, G. H., & Spira, A. P. (2003). Emotional avoidance: An experimental test of individual differences and response suppression using biological challenge. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41, 403–411.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Gernsbacher, M. A. (1994). Activating knowledge of fictional characters’ emotional states. In C. A. Weaver, S. Mannes, & C. R. Fletcher (Eds.), Discourse comprehension: Essays in honor of Walter Kintsch. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  11. Gernsbacher, M. A., Goldsmith, H. H., & Robertson, R. R. W. (1992). Do readers mentally represent characters’ emotional states? Cognition and Emotion, 6, 89–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gernsbacher, M. A., Hallada, B. M., & Robertson, R. R. W. (1998). How automatically do reader infer fictional characters’ emotional states? Scientific Studies of Reading, 2, 271–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gernsbacher, M. A., & Robertson, R. R. W. (1992). Knowledge activation versus sentence mapping when representing fictional characters’ emotional states. Language and Cognition, 7, 353–371.Google Scholar
  14. Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (2001). Relational frame theory: A post-skinnerian account of human language. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hayes, S. C., Pankey, J., Gifford, E. V., Batten, S., & Quinones, R. (2002). Acceptance and commitment therapy in experiential avoidance disorders. In F. W. Kaslow & T. Patterson (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of psychotherapy; cognitive-behavioral approaches (Vol. II, pp. 319–351). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  16. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., Wilson, K. G., Bissett, R. T., Pistorello, J., Toarmino, D., et al. (2004). Measuring experiential avoidance: A preliminary test of a working model. The Psychological Record, 54, 553–578.Google Scholar
  18. Hayes, S. C., Wilson, K. G., Gifford, E. V., Follette, V. M., & Strosahl, K. (1996). Experiential avoidance and the behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1152–1168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Karekla, M., Forsyth, J. P., & Kelly, M. M. (2004). Emotional avoidance and panicogenic responding to a biological challenge procedure. Behavior Therapy, 35, 725–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Leyman, L., DeRaedt, R., Schacht, R., & Koster, E. H. W. (2007). Attentional biases for angry faces in unipolar depression. Psychological Medicine, 37, 393–402.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. MacLeod, C., Mathews, A., & Tata, P. (1986). Attentional biases in emotional disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95, 15–20.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Mogg, K., & Bradley, B. P. (2005). Attentional biases in generalized anxiety disorder versus depressive disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29, 29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Preacher, K. J., Rucker, D. D., MacCallum, R. C., & Nicewander, W. A. (2005). Use of the extreme groups approach: A critical reexamination and new recommendations. Psychological Methods, 10(2), 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Riskind, J. H., & Alloy, L. B. (2006). Cognitive vulnerability to psychological disorders: Overview of theory, design, and methods. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25, 705–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sloan, D. M. (2004). Emotion regulation in action: Emotional reactivity in experiential avoidance. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 1257–1270.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Teachman, B. A., Smith-Janik, S. B., & Saporito, J. (2007). Information processing biases and panic disorder: Relationships among cognitive and symptom measures. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 1791–1811.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. van Dijk, T. A., & Kintsch, W. (1983). Strategies in discourse comprehension. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  28. Yovel, I., & Mineka, S. (2005). Emotion-congruent attentional biases: The perspective of hierarchical models of emotional disorders. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 785–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zettle, R. D., Hocker, T. R., Mick, K. A., Scofield, B. E., Peterson, C. L., Song, H., et al. (2005). Differential strategies in coping with pain as a function of level of experiential avoidance. The Psychological Record, 55, 511–524.Google Scholar
  30. Zettle, R. D., Peterson, C. L., Hocker, T. R., & Provines, J. L. (2007). Responding to a challenging perceptual-motor task as a function of level of experiential avoidance. The Psychological Record, 57, 49–62.Google Scholar
  31. Zwaan, R. A., Langston, M. C., & Graesser, A. C. (1995a). The construction of situation models in narrative comprehension: An event-indexing model. Psychological Science, 6, 292–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Zwaan, R. A., Magliano, J. P., & Graesser, A. C. (1995b). Dimensions of situation model construction in narrative comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21, 386–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Zwaan, R. A., & Radvansky, G. A. (1998). Situation models in language comprehension and memory. Psychological Bulletin, 123, 162–185.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Zwaan, R. A., Radvansky, G. A., Hilliard, A. E., & Curiel, J. M. (1998). Constructing multidimensional situation models during reading. Scientific Studies of Reading, 2, 199–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryThe University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations