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Baseline and strategic effects behind mindful emotion regulation: behavioral and physiological investigation.

Grecucci A, De Pisapia N, Kusalagnana Thero D, Paladino MP, Venuti P, Job R - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: To address these questions, we tested, in two experiments, the ability of mindfulness meditators to regulate interpersonal emotions (Experiment 1) and interactive behaviors (Experiment 2) as compared to naïve controls.In Experiment 2, one visible effect of the strategy was that meditators outperformed controls in the experiential (mindful detachment) but not in the cognitive (mentalize) strategy, showing stronger modulation of their interactive behavior (less punishments) and providing evidence of a strategic behavioral regulation.Based on these results, we suggest that mindfulness can influence interpersonal emotional reactions through an experiential mechanism, both at a baseline level and a strategic level, thereby altering the subjective and physiological perception of emotions, but also biasing interactive social behavior.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, TN, Italy.

ABSTRACT
One of the consequences of extensive mindfulness practice is a reduction of anxiety and depression, but also a capacity to regulate negative emotions. In this study, we explored four key questions concerning mindfulness training: (1) What are the processes by which mindfulness regulates our emotions? (2) Can mindfulness be applied to social emotions? (3) Does mindfulness training affect emotionally driven behavior towards others? (4) Does mindfulness alter physiological reactivity? To address these questions, we tested, in two experiments, the ability of mindfulness meditators to regulate interpersonal emotions (Experiment 1) and interactive behaviors (Experiment 2) as compared to naïve controls. To better understand the mechanisms by which mindfulness regulates emotions, we asked participants to apply two strategies: a cognitive strategy (mentalizing, a form of reappraisal focused on the intentions of others) and an experiential strategy derived from mindfulness principles (mindful detachment). Both groups were able to regulate interpersonal emotions by means of cognitive (mentalizing) and experiential (mindful detachment) strategies. In Experiment 1, a simple effect of meditation, independent from the implementation of the strategies, resulted in reduced emotional and physiological reactivity, as well as in increased pleasantness for meditators when compared to controls, providing evidence of baseline regulation. In Experiment 2, one visible effect of the strategy was that meditators outperformed controls in the experiential (mindful detachment) but not in the cognitive (mentalize) strategy, showing stronger modulation of their interactive behavior (less punishments) and providing evidence of a strategic behavioral regulation. Based on these results, we suggest that mindfulness can influence interpersonal emotional reactions through an experiential mechanism, both at a baseline level and a strategic level, thereby altering the subjective and physiological perception of emotions, but also biasing interactive social behavior.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Timelines for the two Experiments.A) Experiment 1, the sequence of events in the Modified Dictator Game. B) Experiment 2, the sequence of the events in the Modified Ultimatum Game.
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pone.0116541.g001: Timelines for the two Experiments.A) Experiment 1, the sequence of events in the Modified Dictator Game. B) Experiment 2, the sequence of the events in the Modified Ultimatum Game.

Mentions: Both groups took part in a Modified version of the Dictator Game (MDG) [30, 31]. After providing informed consent, participants were first instructed as to the rules of the MDG. Even though the MDG is derived from economic psychology, it was used in the present context only to elicit interpersonal (negative and neutral) emotions (i.e. we were not interested in exploring behavioral economics effects as such). In the game, there are two players: the first player is defined as “dictator” and the second player is the “receiver.” In this modified version, participants played as receivers while applying emotion regulation strategies (described below). The dictator decided how to split ten euros between him/herself and the receiver. Five different types of (receiver:dictator) offers were possible: 1€:9€, 2€:8€, 3€:7€, 4€:6€ and 5€:5€, repeated 4 times for a total of 20 offers for each of the three experimental conditions (looking, mentalizing, and mindful detachment). The receiver was asked to passively observe and then evaluate the emotions elicited by the altruistic or selfish behavior on a two-part emotional scale (one for arousal and one for valence using a visual analog scale known as the Self-Assessment Manikin, [35]). The association of offers and the faces of partners were completely randomized. During the instructions, it was emphasized that the offers were real and previously recorded from an actual partner (the ones whose face was presented at the beginning of each round) (see Fig. 1A for a timeline). Importantly, the MDG includes in its use an additional manipulation of the emotion regulation strategy. A written protocol was given to participants describing both strategies. The cognitive strategy of mentalizing required participants to “reinterpret the intentions of the player as less negative.” The protocol included the presentation of an image depicting a crying woman. Participants were told that this event can be interpreted in various ways; for example, one may think that the woman is suffering from bereavement or has a slight headache. Both interpretations are appropriate, but their effect is different: the first interpretation increases the negativity of the event, the second one decreases it. Participants were then asked to always reinterpret the events as less negative. They were then given the instructions of the MDG and told to focus on the mind of the player in order to build an interpretation of his/her intentions as less negative. The second strategy, named mindful detachment, is a less cognitive and more experiential strategy. In line with one of the mindfulness principles, participants were asked to observe the events happening during the game and adopt a detached perspective with an attitude of acceptance and lack of judgment. Again, these instructions were written and a picture was then presented depicting a scene of war and terrorism. Participants were told that the ways in which we experience the situation determines how we feel about it. Then participants were told how to apply this strategy to the context of the MDG (assume a detached, non-judgmental, and acceptance based perspective on players’ behavior). Finally, in the control condition (looking), participants were asked to respond as spontaneously as possible. Before the experiment, participants performed two training trials, in which the experimenter made sure everybody understood the rules of the game and were able to apply the emotion regulation strategies.


Baseline and strategic effects behind mindful emotion regulation: behavioral and physiological investigation.

Grecucci A, De Pisapia N, Kusalagnana Thero D, Paladino MP, Venuti P, Job R - PLoS ONE (2015)

Timelines for the two Experiments.A) Experiment 1, the sequence of events in the Modified Dictator Game. B) Experiment 2, the sequence of the events in the Modified Ultimatum Game.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4295876&req=5

pone.0116541.g001: Timelines for the two Experiments.A) Experiment 1, the sequence of events in the Modified Dictator Game. B) Experiment 2, the sequence of the events in the Modified Ultimatum Game.
Mentions: Both groups took part in a Modified version of the Dictator Game (MDG) [30, 31]. After providing informed consent, participants were first instructed as to the rules of the MDG. Even though the MDG is derived from economic psychology, it was used in the present context only to elicit interpersonal (negative and neutral) emotions (i.e. we were not interested in exploring behavioral economics effects as such). In the game, there are two players: the first player is defined as “dictator” and the second player is the “receiver.” In this modified version, participants played as receivers while applying emotion regulation strategies (described below). The dictator decided how to split ten euros between him/herself and the receiver. Five different types of (receiver:dictator) offers were possible: 1€:9€, 2€:8€, 3€:7€, 4€:6€ and 5€:5€, repeated 4 times for a total of 20 offers for each of the three experimental conditions (looking, mentalizing, and mindful detachment). The receiver was asked to passively observe and then evaluate the emotions elicited by the altruistic or selfish behavior on a two-part emotional scale (one for arousal and one for valence using a visual analog scale known as the Self-Assessment Manikin, [35]). The association of offers and the faces of partners were completely randomized. During the instructions, it was emphasized that the offers were real and previously recorded from an actual partner (the ones whose face was presented at the beginning of each round) (see Fig. 1A for a timeline). Importantly, the MDG includes in its use an additional manipulation of the emotion regulation strategy. A written protocol was given to participants describing both strategies. The cognitive strategy of mentalizing required participants to “reinterpret the intentions of the player as less negative.” The protocol included the presentation of an image depicting a crying woman. Participants were told that this event can be interpreted in various ways; for example, one may think that the woman is suffering from bereavement or has a slight headache. Both interpretations are appropriate, but their effect is different: the first interpretation increases the negativity of the event, the second one decreases it. Participants were then asked to always reinterpret the events as less negative. They were then given the instructions of the MDG and told to focus on the mind of the player in order to build an interpretation of his/her intentions as less negative. The second strategy, named mindful detachment, is a less cognitive and more experiential strategy. In line with one of the mindfulness principles, participants were asked to observe the events happening during the game and adopt a detached perspective with an attitude of acceptance and lack of judgment. Again, these instructions were written and a picture was then presented depicting a scene of war and terrorism. Participants were told that the ways in which we experience the situation determines how we feel about it. Then participants were told how to apply this strategy to the context of the MDG (assume a detached, non-judgmental, and acceptance based perspective on players’ behavior). Finally, in the control condition (looking), participants were asked to respond as spontaneously as possible. Before the experiment, participants performed two training trials, in which the experimenter made sure everybody understood the rules of the game and were able to apply the emotion regulation strategies.

Bottom Line: To address these questions, we tested, in two experiments, the ability of mindfulness meditators to regulate interpersonal emotions (Experiment 1) and interactive behaviors (Experiment 2) as compared to naïve controls.In Experiment 2, one visible effect of the strategy was that meditators outperformed controls in the experiential (mindful detachment) but not in the cognitive (mentalize) strategy, showing stronger modulation of their interactive behavior (less punishments) and providing evidence of a strategic behavioral regulation.Based on these results, we suggest that mindfulness can influence interpersonal emotional reactions through an experiential mechanism, both at a baseline level and a strategic level, thereby altering the subjective and physiological perception of emotions, but also biasing interactive social behavior.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, TN, Italy.

ABSTRACT
One of the consequences of extensive mindfulness practice is a reduction of anxiety and depression, but also a capacity to regulate negative emotions. In this study, we explored four key questions concerning mindfulness training: (1) What are the processes by which mindfulness regulates our emotions? (2) Can mindfulness be applied to social emotions? (3) Does mindfulness training affect emotionally driven behavior towards others? (4) Does mindfulness alter physiological reactivity? To address these questions, we tested, in two experiments, the ability of mindfulness meditators to regulate interpersonal emotions (Experiment 1) and interactive behaviors (Experiment 2) as compared to naïve controls. To better understand the mechanisms by which mindfulness regulates emotions, we asked participants to apply two strategies: a cognitive strategy (mentalizing, a form of reappraisal focused on the intentions of others) and an experiential strategy derived from mindfulness principles (mindful detachment). Both groups were able to regulate interpersonal emotions by means of cognitive (mentalizing) and experiential (mindful detachment) strategies. In Experiment 1, a simple effect of meditation, independent from the implementation of the strategies, resulted in reduced emotional and physiological reactivity, as well as in increased pleasantness for meditators when compared to controls, providing evidence of baseline regulation. In Experiment 2, one visible effect of the strategy was that meditators outperformed controls in the experiential (mindful detachment) but not in the cognitive (mentalize) strategy, showing stronger modulation of their interactive behavior (less punishments) and providing evidence of a strategic behavioral regulation. Based on these results, we suggest that mindfulness can influence interpersonal emotional reactions through an experiential mechanism, both at a baseline level and a strategic level, thereby altering the subjective and physiological perception of emotions, but also biasing interactive social behavior.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus