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Socio-Affective versus Socio-Cognitive Mental Trainings Differentially Affect Emotion Regulation Strategies

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JournalEmotion
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Jul 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 1 Dec 2019
Issue number8
Volume19
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)1329-1342
Early online date1/12/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

A variety of contemplative practices putatively improves the ability to deal with difficult emotions. However, it is unclear how these different types of mental training differentially affect the use of different emotion regulation strategies. We addressed this question in a 9-month longitudinal study in which participants (N = 332) took part in three distinct 3-month mental training modules cultivating attentional (the Presence module), socio-cognitive (the Perspective module), and socio-affective, compassion-based skills (the Affect module). In addition, the participants completed the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ) and the Brief “COPE” questionnaire at baseline and after every module. The Presence module did not notably change the use of any emotion regulation strategies, whereas the Perspective and the Affect modules both increased the use of acceptance. Moreover, the Perspective module was especially effective in increasing the use of adaptive, cognitive transformations such as reappraisal, perspective taking, and planning, whereas the Affect module uniquely led to decreases in maladaptive avoidant strategies such as distraction and refocusing. These findings imply that, a) cultivating present moment focused attention might not be sufficient to change emotion regulation strategies, b) different types of mental practices focusing on either cognitive perspective taking or socio-motivational capacities lead to adaptive emotion regulation via different strategies, and c) specifically cultivating positive affect and compassion can decrease avoidance of difficult emotions. This research suggests that different mental-training exercises affect the use of specific emotion regulation strategies and that clinical interventions should be designed accordingly.

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