Effects of Self-Distancing and Mindfulness Instructions on Anxiety and Approach Motivation
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Two experiments tested the effects of self-distancing and mindfulness instructions on approach motivation and state anxiety. Following Kross and Ayduk (2011), we expected that the self-distancing and mindfulness instructions would be particularly useful in providing relief for anxious people who tend to get mired in ruminative distress. Both experiments accordingly tested the hypotheses that self-distancing and mindfulness manipulations should restore a more buoyant approach motivated state and reduce anxious distress, especially among the more trait anxious participants. Results with both fly-on-the-wall (Study 1, N = 148) and mindfulness (Study 2, N = 143) manipulations revealed that both manipulations increased self-reported approach motivation only for trait anxious participants. Neither self-distancing nor mindfulness had an effect on self-reported anxious distress and negative affect. The discussion examines whether the self-distancing and mindfulness manipulations increased approach motivation among trait anxious participants due a defensive reactive approach motivation (McGregor, Nash, Mann, & Phills, 2010), or if they restored a resilient kind of approach motivation which then allowed trait anxious participants to more mindfully acknowledge their worries. The discussion also examines possible reasons why the self-distancing and mindfulness manipulations did not reduce state anxiety despite their demonstrated effectiveness in past studies (Kross & Ayduk, 2011; Baer, 2003; Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010).