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Reconsidering Counterfactual Potency to Improve Affect: Towards an Intervention

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Research suggests that upward counterfactual thinking (i.e., mentally simulating more desirable alternatives to reality) influences the extremity of negative emotions to the extent that people believe in the plausibility, or likelihood, of the mentally simulated alternative antecedents and outcomes (i.e., counterfactual potency). The current research aimed to determine if reducing counterfactual potency, through a controlled intervention, led to improved affect. Participants were asked to summarize a previous behavior that they regret and to rate counterfactual potency and negative affect when considering their behavior. Similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, half of the participants were asked a series of questions designed to reduce counterfactual potency and thereby potentially reduce negative affect, whereas the other half of the participants were assigned to a comparable control task. Then participants reported counterfactual potency and negative affect again. It was hypothesized that assignment to the intervention condition would significantly reduce both counterfactual potency and negative affect relative to assignment to the control condition, especially among those whose negative affect was reported to be linked to counterfactual thinking. Change in counterfactual potency was also expected to mediate the link between the condition/source of negative affect interaction and change in negative affect. Although the treatment condition did significantly affect counterfactual potency, the hypothesized moderation and mediation models were not supported by the data. However, additional analyses indicated that a significant link between treatment condition and change in positive affect was mediated by change in counterfactual potency. This research provides support for the potential use of counterfactual potency in utilizing therapeutic techniques to improve affect.
Marshall, Rachel Denise (author)
Petrocelli, John V (committee chair)
Seta, Catherine E (committee member)
Kammrath, Lara (committee member)
Gladding, Samuel T (committee member)
2017-06-15T08:36:27Z (accessioned)
2017-06-15T08:36:27Z (available)
2017 (issued)
Psychology (discipline)
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/82263 (uri)
en (iso)
Wake Forest University
Reconsidering Counterfactual Potency to Improve Affect: Towards an Intervention

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