The effects of cognitive defusion and thought distraction on emotional discomfort and believability of negative self-referential thoughts

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;41(1):11-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2009.08.006. Epub 2009 Aug 18.


Previous research has shown that rapid vocal repetition of a one-word version of negative self-referential thought reduces the stimulus functions (e.g., emotional discomfort and believability) associated with that thought. The present study compares the effects of that defusion strategy with thought distraction and distraction-based experimental control tasks on a negative self-referential thought. Non-clinical undergraduates were randomly assigned to one of three protocols. The cognitive defusion condition reduced the emotional discomfort and believability of negative self-referential thoughts significantly greater than comparison conditions. Favorable results were also found for the defusion technique with participants with elevated depressive symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / etiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition Disorders / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Culture*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Concept*
  • Thinking / physiology
  • Young Adult