Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Sarah Hayes-Skelton

Second Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer

Third Advisor

Vivian Ciaramitaro


Cognitive fusion, also described as being “hooked” or “entangled” (Roemer & Orsillo, 2009), is a psychological process that is characterized by an over-identification with one’s thoughts. Fusion involves believing the literal meaning of thoughts as true representations of reality (Herzberg et al., 2012). A number of terms have been used to describe the process that opposes cognitive fusion, one of which is decentering. Safran and Segal (1990) define decentering as the ability to observe one’s thoughts and feelings as temporary, objective events in the mind, as opposed to reflections of the self that are necessarily true. The construct of decentering has generated recent attention as a potential mechanism of change underlying mindfulness- and acceptance-based therapies, working to prevent and/or correct the experience of cognitive fusion (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006). In the first phase of the present study, the Relationship to Internal Experiences Scale (RIES), a new measure of fusion and decentering, was developed. In the second phase, the RIES was piloted in a community/convenience sample and its initial psychometric properties were evaluated. A principal components analysis of Parts A and B of the RIES indicated that the measure has three internally consistent factors—a fusion factor, a decentering factor, and a behavioral reactivity/flexibility factor. This three factor structure adheres to theoretical models of cognitive fusion and decentering. The measure demonstrated adequate convergent validity with existing measures of the constructs. It also showed appropriate discriminant validity with two measures of unrelated constructs, though it correlated unexpectedly with a measure of experiential avoidance. The RIES was also correlated with measures of depression, anxiety, stress, and social anxiety, and with a measure of quality of life. These findings provide initial support for the RIES as a measure of fusion and decentering.


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