Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 416–427 | Cite as

Changes in Explanatory Flexibility Among Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in an Emotion Evocation Challenge

  • David M. Fresco
  • Douglas S. Mennin
  • Michael T. Moore
  • Richard G. Heimberg
  • James Hambrick
Original Article


Seventy-eight undergraduates, 39 with self-reported generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), completed measures of mood and explanatory flexibility (the capacity to assign causes to negative events with a balance of historical and contextual factors) prior to and directly after a musical priming challenge that consisted of listening to negatively-valenced emotional music and thinking about a personally relevant negative event. After the emotion evocation, participants also completed a measure of state emotion regulation. Despite comparable increases in negative affect, GAD analogues evidenced drops in explanatory flexibility whereas non-GAD Controls did not. Drops in explanatory flexibility among GAD analogues covaried significantly with lack of emotional clarity. Findings suggest that for individuals with GAD, emotionally evocative experiences may result in a constricted perspective when apprehending the causes for negative events. This perspective may serve to dampen arousal, but perhaps at the cost of failing to inform one’s actions with important emotional information.


Generalized anxiety disorder Mood priming Explanatory flexibility Emotion regulation 


Conflict of Interest

David M. Fresco, Douglas S. Mennin, Michael T. Moore, Richard G. Heimberg and James Hambrick declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

This study was approved by the IRB at Temple University.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Fresco
    • 1
  • Douglas S. Mennin
    • 2
  • Michael T. Moore
    • 3
  • Richard G. Heimberg
    • 4
  • James Hambrick
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKent State UniversityKentUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Hunter CollegeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyJackson State UniversityJacksonUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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