Decentering and Related Constructs: A Critical Review and Metacognitive Processes Model

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015 Sep;10(5):599-617. doi: 10.1177/1745691615594577.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Metacognition*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Self Concept