Cognitive Decentering: Relation to Constructs from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Positive Psychology (pp. 45-68)
Authors: (Tomoko Sugiura and Yoshinori Sugiura, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan, and others)
Abstract: Cognitive decentering is the ability to observe thoughts and feelings as
only mental events, rather than as reality or truths about the self (Fresco,
Moore, van Dulmen, Segal, Teasdale, Ma, et al., 2007). This definition
includes one's relationships to a wide range of experiences (e.g., thoughts,
feelings, bodily sensations), both negative and positive. In addition, it contains
constructs such as self-compassion. However, this chapter focuses exclusively
on how people relate to negative thoughts; thus, we use the term cognitive
decentering that is defined by Wells (2005).
Decentering is thought to be a mediating factor in the improvements
resulting from mindfulness interventions and cognitive behavioral therapy
(CBT). There is considerable evidence that CBT is an effective treatment for
various emotional disorders (e.g., Butler, Chapman, Forman, & Beck, 2006;
Chambliss & Olendick, 2001). The goal of CBT is to reduce maladaptive
cognitions. In the case of depression, negative automatic thoughts and
dysfunctional depressogenic schemata have been thought to contribute to
depressive states therefore, initially, CBT aimed to modify such cognitions
(Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979).
However, there is little empirical support for this premise because the
reduction of dysfunctional attitudes does not seem to be responsible for the
changes induced by CBT (Barber & DeRubeis, 1989; Burns & Spangler,
2001). Barber and DeRubeis (1989) stated: ―cognitive therapy does not reduce
the tendency for depressives to generate negative thoughts in distressing
situations, but rather it inculcates a set of skills that helps them to deal with
these thoughts when they do occur‖ (p. 450). One such skill is thought to be
decentering, also called metacognitive awareness (Sauer & Baer, 2010).
Teasdale et al. (2002) defined metacognitive awareness as "a cognitive set in
which negative thoughts and feelings are seen as passing mental events rather
than as aspects of self" (p. 275).
In the same vein, mindfulness is defined as "paying attention in a
particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally"
(Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4), making it very similar to the practice of cognitive
decentering. Mindfulness meditation trains this mental state through practice
by focusing on breathing, body sensations, and whole experiences. Segal,
Williams, and Teasdale (2002) developed an intervention called Mindfulnessbased
Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for relapse prevention of depression by
incorporating mindfulness meditation to enhance metacognitive awareness.
Teasdale, Segal, and Williams (1995) also thought that standard CBT
techniques could enhance metacognitive awareness. Moore, Hayhurst, and
Teasdale (1996) developed the Measure of Awareness and Coping in
Autobiographical Memory (MACAM), a semi-structured interview to assess
metacognitive awareness. Using MACAM, Teasdale et al. (2002) found that
both standard cognitive therapy and MBCT enhanced metacognitive
awareness and reduced the likelihood of relapse in recovered depressive
Another self-report measure of decentering, known as the Experiences
Questionnaire (EQ; Fresco et al., 2007), has been used to demonstrate the
increase by both standard CBT (Fresco, Segal, Buis, & Kennedy, 2007) and
mindfulness-based interventions (Carmody, Baer, Lykins, & Olendzki, 2009)
(pre-post d = 1.03 and 1.22, respectively). However, the concept of
decentering appears relatively broad. Therefore, it may be appropriate to focus
on particular facets, such as how people relate to their cognitions (i.e.,
Open Access item.
Click below PDF icon for free download.
This is an Open Access item. Click above PDF icon for free download.