The effect of state and trait self-critical rumination on acute distress : an exploratory experimental investigation

Kolubinski, Daniel C., Nikcevic, Ana V. and Spada, Marcantonio M. (2021) The effect of state and trait self-critical rumination on acute distress : an exploratory experimental investigation. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 39, pp. 306-321. ISSN (print) 0894-9085


Self-critical rumination is a process whereby individuals focus attention on past failures and inadequacies without consideration for improvement or problem-solving. Past research has demonstrated that self-critical rumination is a separate process from the experience of having intrusive self-critical thoughts and that engaging in self-critical rumination is strongly correlated with beliefs that it is uncontrollable or represents a weakness of character. What is less clear at this time, however, is the impact that self-critical rumination has on levels of distress when faced with failure. Thirty volunteers who were not experiencing significant levels of depression were randomly assigned across three groups: one rumination and two controls. Acute distress was measured prior to and immediately following a task, as well as upon debrief. Individuals expected to complete an impossible task, who experienced simulated self-critical rumination experienced greater levels of acute distress than controls immediately following the task. There was also a significant correlation between reported levels of trait self-critical rumination, negative metacognitive beliefs and self-esteem with levels of distress following debrief when controlling for initial levels of distress and group membership. The use of subjective self-reports and small sample size limits the findings of this exploratory study. Engaging in self-critical rumination, and associated negative metacognitive beliefs, may have a significant impact on levels of acute distress following a recent failure.

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