Category: Treatment - ACT
Cognitive defusion and cognitive reappraisal are two cognitively-focused coping methods that have been theorized to change the impact of cognitions on mental health. Cognitive defusion involves changing the function of thoughts so that their impact on behavior is lessened (Hayes et al., 2006), while cognitive reappraisal involves changing the content of thoughts in order to alter their impact (Gross & John, 2003). Debate has emerged over the extent to which cognitive defusion and reappraisal are contrasting or complementary strategies (Arch & Craske, 2008; Hayes, 2008). In addition, questions remain regarding how and when cognitive defusion and cognitive reappraisal are associated with improved mental health.
This poster presents the results of a longitudinal study in a college student sample (n = 297) comparing the relative contributions of cognitive defusion and cognitive reappraisal to mental health and functioning, as well as the relationship between cognitive defusion and cognitive reappraisal. A series of multivariate regression models examined baseline cognitive defusion, cognitive reappraisal, and corresponding baseline outcome score as predictors of outcomes one month later. Baseline cognitive fusion was found to significantly predict each outcome at one-month follow-up for distress (b = 0.15, p = .01), depression (b = 0.20, p < .001), and student functioning (b=0.11, p=.04), while cognitive reappraisal only predicted student functioning (b = -0.10, p = .04). There was a medium negative correlation between cognitive fusion and cognitive reappraisal at baseline (r = -0.35, p < .001), such that individuals who are more cognitively fused report engaging in less reappraisal.
These findings suggest that cognitive fusion is generally a stronger predictor of mental health outcomes over time than cognitive reappraisal. Furthermore, the relatively weak association between cognitive fusion and cognitive reappraisal supports the proposition that defusion and reappraisal are distinct psychological processes. In addition, the differential results across different contexts (e.g. student functioning vs. depression) suggest that cognitive reappraisal may be of greater value in specific contexts while the effects of cognitive defusion are broader.