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Using two modes of intervention delivery, the present study compared the effects of a cognitive defusion strategy with a thought distraction strategy on the emotional discomfort and believability of negative self-referential thoughts. One mode of intervention delivery consisted of a clinical rationale and training (i.e., Partial condition). The other mode contained a condition-specific experiential exercise with the negative self-referential thought in addition to the clinical rationale and training (i.e., Full condition). Non-clinical undergraduates were randomly assigned to one of five protocols: Partial-Defusion, Full-Defusion, Partial-Distraction, Full-Distraction, and a distraction-based experimental control task. The Full-Defusion condition reduced the emotional discomfort and believability of negative self-referential thoughts significantly greater than other comparison conditions. The positive results of the Full-Defusion condition were also found among participants with elevated depressive symptoms.


“NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Behavior Modification. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in

Masuda, A., Feinstein, A. B., Wendell, J. W., & Sheehan, S. T. (2010). Cognitive Defusion Versus Thought Distraction: A Clinical Rationale, Training, and Experiential Exercise in Altering Psychological Impacts of Negative Self-Referential Thoughts. Behavior Modification, 34, 520-538.

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