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Effects of Anxiety and Depression on Functional Counterfactual Thinking
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Anxiety and depression are mental disorders that are common in the United States that share one common symptom: rumination. While one may traditionally associate rumination with negative affect, some forms of rumination can have positive benefits. For example, counterfactual thinking is one type of rumination that can strengthen behavioral intentions and improve performance on subsequent tasks. In particular, functional counterfactuals enhance self-regulatory success by eliciting thoughts about better alternatives to past events and transforming these thoughts into plans for future action (Epstude & Roese, 2008). However, there is insufficient research on how anxiety and depression affects functional counterfactual thinking. The current research examines the effect of anxiety and depression on functional counterfactual thinking by examining how different judgment tasks influence participants’ activation of behavioral intentions. Participants completed both anxiety and depression measures to determine whether these conditions hinder facilitation of intentions following counterfactual thinking. We found a pattern of facilitation by counterfactual relative to control judgments that varied as a function of the type of action. When the action focused on a behavior, counterfactuals produced faster behavioral intention judgments relative to control. However, when the action was focused on a trait, counterfactuals did not facilitate behavioral intentions relative to control. Neither depression nor anxiety scores influenced this facilitation pattern.
SubjectAnxiety, Depression, Functional counterfactual thinking, Counterfactual thinking, Psychology
Kim, Sejin (2017). Effects of Anxiety and Depression on Functional Counterfactual Thinking. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from