Seeing the bigger picture: training in perspective broadening reduces self-reported affect and psychophysiological response to distressing films and autobiographical memories

J Abnorm Psychol. 2009 Feb;118(1):15-27. doi: 10.1037/a0012906.


Appraising negative experiences in ways that reduce associated distress is a key component of successful emotion regulation. In 4 studies, the authors examined the effects of systematically practicing appraisal skills using a computer-mediated cognitive bias modification (CBM) methodology. In Studies 1-3, healthy participants practiced applying appraisal themes linked to the idea of seeing the bigger picture to a series of distressing training films, either during each film (Study 1) or immediately after each film (Studies 2 and 3). Control participants watched the same films with no appraisal instructions. Participants who practiced appraisal, compared with controls, exhibited reduced levels of self-reported negative emotional (Studies 1-3) and electrodermal (Study 1) responses to a final test film that all participants were instructed to appraise. In Study 4, a comparable effect of appraisal practice was found using distressing autobiographical memories for participants with higher levels of negative affect. Appraisal practice also led to reduced intrusion and avoidance of the target memories in the week poststudy, compared with prestudy levels, and relative to the no-practice controls. The findings are discussed in terms of the broader literature on CBM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Autobiographies as Topic*
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Pictures*
  • Teaching*
  • Young Adult