Ongoing Research

We actively research both basic and applied topics in relation to acceptance and mindfulness based change processes with a particular emphasis on anxiety disorders. Listed below are the current and recently completed projects at the ADRP.

Facing Fears and Living Life

This project is evaluating the feasibility and utility of a novel laboratory-based behavioral assessment of fear and phobic behavior. The assessment is designed to maximize ecological validity and provide a more appropriate analogue of phobic behavior, relative to current assessments. This behavioral assessment is created to better capture competing approach and avoidance contingencies that influence behavior when confronted with a feared stimulus.

Facebook Use

This study is evaluating how college students use Facebook, and how the specific ways that students use Facebook relate to important variables such as satisfaction with life and experiential avoidance.

Recently Completed Research

Anxiety in Daily Life

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health concern in the United States. Yet, many who suffer from anxiety do not receive treatment or fail to respond to well-established cognitive and behavioral interventions. Mindfulness- and values-based strategies are possible alternatives for these individuals. However, values-based approaches have not been adequately studied in anxious populations and it is unclear how they may interact with mindfulness-based approaches. Moreover, little is understood about the mechanisms of action underlying behavioral changes resulting from mindfulness meditation (MM) practices. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one approach that employs values clarification (VC) and mindfulness to bring about improvements in quality of life (QOL). ACT also provides a behavioral account of human vitality that may increase specificity of mediating and moderating variables that are critical for good outcomes following mindfulness-based treatment. The present investigation aimed to evaluate the effects of MM and VC on QOL and anxiety symptomology and to elucidate significant mediators and moderators of the relations between MM and VC and positive outcomes.

The Effect of Cognitive Defusion on Behavioral and Psychological Flexibility

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) utilizes cognitive defusion strategies to alter the function of unwanted, distressing thoughts so as to reduce their impact and foster greater psychological flexibility. This study sought to determine whether positive impacts of defusion are associated with the behavioral process of defusion itself; namely, behavior that is relatively broad and flexible compared with behavior that is narrow and inflexible. To address this issue, this study assessed the impact of a defusion intervention on behavior, as measured by the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP). Results from the study, published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, suggested that defused behavior is broad and flexible in nature, relative to narrow and inflexible.

Assessment of Weight/Shape Implicit Bias Related to Attractiveness, Fear, and Disgust

The project aimed to clarify the nature of weight and shape biases, and investigate emotion-specific nuances in responding. Specifically, the study evaluated self-oriented weight/shape relational responding linked to attractiveness, fear, and disgust using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP).

Mindful Practices in Daily Life

Mindfulness meditation appears to result in several behavioral benefits, including improved attention and awareness of environmental contingencies, and overall better quality of life. However, little is known regarding the needed "dose" to achieve improved behavioral outcomes, who may benefit from meditation, how meditation affects daily experience, or the behavioral processes that meditation impacts. Our goal was to identify the effects of engaging in a brief daily mindful practice over the course of two weeks. Participants attended a Learning Day session where they complete a pre-instruction survey and were then randomized to learn one of two meditation exercises. Brief daily surveys were completed from participants' home computer or mobile device for 14 days, and were followed by a post-experimental questionnaire.

A Comparison of Acceptance and Cognitive Restructuring Techniques for Coping with Acute Panic

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be an efficacious treatment for panic disorder. However, significant proportions of patients fail to achieve clinically significant improvement. Acceptance, an alternative contextually-focused approach to content- and change-based cognitive strategies, has gained popularity within the field. Research on the utility of acceptance-based strategies for anxiety is promising, particularly in comparison to control-based emotion regulation strategies, such as suppression and distraction, yet, to date no studies have rigorously compared acceptance-based strategies to analogs of cognitive behavioral techniques. The present study was the first to rigorously investigate the relative utility of acceptance and cognitive restructuring strategies for coping with acute panicogenic distress. Research compared the psychophysiological (i.e., skin conductance) and subjective self-report indices of panic severity, distress, and symptomatology for the different strategy groups (acceptance, cognitive restructuring, and no provided strategy) as well as behavioral avoidance in a randomized sample of high anxiety sensitive undergraduate females undergoing a carbon dioxide-enriched air biological challenge.

ACT Self-Help Workbook Study

There are more than a dozen self-help workbooks based upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or ACT, said as one word) that are available to the general public, and yet there are no good evaluations of whether such books are actually helpful for the alleviation of human suffering. The purpose of this international study was to examine the effectiveness of a new self-help workbook based upon ACT, The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety, for people who are suffering from anxiety and see their anxiety as a significant problem in their lives. Initial exploration of the data indicates promising outcomes as the final post-treatment scores are collected.

ACT & CBT Self-Help Workbook Study

CBT approaches are currently the most empirically supported clinical interventions for anxiety disorders and thus provide a rigorous comparison method against which to test an ACT intervention. Building upon the favorable data emerging from our ACT Self-Help Workbook Study, we examined the effectiveness of The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety relative to an existing CBT workbook in the alleviation of anxious suffering and improvement in quality of life in individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. A second purpose of the study was to explore whether ACT and CBT workbooks produce clinical change via similar or unique processes, while elucidating for whom such treatments may be appropriate.