Processing Mode Causally Influences Emotional Reactivity: Distinct Effects of Abstract Versus Concrete Construal on Emotional Response

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Three studies are reported showing that emotional responses to stress can be modified by systematic prior practice in adopting particular processing modes. Participants were induced to think about positive and negative scenarios in a mode either characteristic of or inconsistent with the abstract-evaluative mind-set observed in depressive rumination, via explicit instructions (Experiments 1 and 2) and via implicit induction of interpretative biases (Experiment 3), before being exposed to a failure experience. In all three studies, participants trained into the mode antithetical to depressive rumination demonstrated less emotional reactivity following failure than participants trained into the mode consistent with depressive rumination. These findings provide evidence consistent with the hypothesis that processing mode modifies emotional reactivity and support the processing-mode theory of rumination.

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