The capacity to shift experiential perspective-from within one's subjective experience onto that experience-is fundamental to being human. Scholars have long theorized that this metacognitive capacity-which we refer to as decentering-may play an important role in mental health. To help illuminate this mental phenomenon and its links to mental health, we critically examine decentering-related constructs and their respective literatures (e.g., self-distanced perspective, cognitive distancing, cognitive defusion). First, we introduce a novel metacognitive processes model of decentering. Specifically, we propose that, to varying degrees, decentering-related constructs reflect a common mental phenomenon subserved by three interrelated metacognitive processes: meta-awareness, disidentification from internal experience, and reduced reactivity to thought content. Second, we examine extant research linking decentering-related constructs and their underlying metacognitive processes to mental health. We conclude by proposing future directions for research that transcends decentering-related constructs in an effort to advance the field's understanding of this facet of human experience and its role in (mal)adaptation.
Keywords: (dis)identification; (non)reactivity; cognitive (de)fusion; cognitive distancing; decentering; meta-awareness; metacognition; metacognitive awareness; mindfulness; psychological distance; self-as-context; self-distanced perspective; self-referential processing.
© The Author(s) 2015.