Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer

Second Advisor

Sarah Hayes-Skelton

Third Advisor

Alice S. Carter


Acceptance-based strategies have been incorporated into behavioral therapies for anxiety and other disorders (e.g., Roemer & Orsillo, 2009). Experimental literature is in need of better, more nuances assessment of the consequences of acceptance (Kohl, Rief & Glombiewski, 2012). Therefore, this study specifically examined the way in which acceptance can increase attentional flexibility and recovery from stress, which are important factors in the maintenance of anxiety disorders (Cisler & Koster, 2010). This experimental study compared acceptance and suppression of emotional experiences, following exposure to fearful stimuli (i.e., images and film clip), to a control condition.

Results indicated that there was no significant relation between dimensional self-ratings of trait and state emotion regulation ability, trait acceptance, disengagement from viewing distressing images, and recovery from distress. Experimental analyses revealed that no emotion regulation strategy- acceptance or suppression- allowed individuals to disengage and recover from the negative images significantly more quickly. Also no emotion regulation strategy led to significantly lower levels of self-reported negative affect and higher willingness to view more distressing images. However, nonsignificant trends of medium to large effect sizes emerged, with unexpected correlational findings suggesting that trait levels of experiential avoidance and emotion regulation difficulties were associated with the ability to disengage from images, while acceptance instructions may have facilitated disengagement following the task.

There were several limitations to this study. First the sample size was small limiting the ability to detect effects of the independent variable (i.e., emotion regulation instructions). Also randomization was not successful and the conditions were imbalanced on several key variables. Lastly the mood induction was not successful in inducing fear in this sample, therefore limiting the ability to comment on participants’ reaction to distress and recovery from distress.

Given that there were several limitations to this study, it is important for future research to make the study alterations recommended and conduct further research on this topic.

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Psychology Commons