Cognitive fusion and emotion differentiation: does getting entangled with our thoughts dysregulate the generation, experience and regulation of emotion?

Cognition and Emotion 31 (6):1286-1293 (2017)
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Abstract

We tested whether cognitive fusion impairs emotion differentiation and thereby mediates relations between cognitive fusion and depression and panic symptoms among 55 adults, 50.9% women). Using visual stimuli, we elicited multiple emotion states and measured emotional intensity – the subjective emotion intensity of elicited emotions, as well as emotional differentiation – the degree of co-activation of multiple negative emotions when a specific emotion was elicited. First, as hypothesised, we found that cognitive fusion predicted lower levels of emotion differentiation. In contrast, as hypothesised, these effects were significantly greater than the effects of cognitive fusion on emotion intensity. Second, as predicted, MECA, but not SEI, predicted depression and panic symptoms. Finally, we found that MECA mediated the effects of cognitive fusion on depression and panic symptoms. The present findings contribute novel, preliminary empirical insight into associations between cognitive fusion, impaired emotion differentiation and mental ill-health.

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