Mechanisms of Change During Attention Training and Mindfulness in High Trait-Anxious Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Study
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The first aim of this study was to compare attention manipulation techniques deriving from metacognitive therapy (the Attention Training Technique; ATT) and mindfulness-based approaches (Mindfulness-Based Progressive Muscle Relaxation, MB-PMR) to a thought wandering control (TWC) condition, in terms of their impact on anxiety and four mechanisms: distancing, present-focused attention, uncontrollability and dangerousness, metacognitive beliefs, and cognitive flexibility (Stroop task). The second aim was to test indirect effects of the techniques on anxiety via the mechanism measures. High trait anxious participants (N = 81, M age = 23.60, SD age = 7.66, 80% female) were randomized to receive ATT, MB-PMR, or the TWC condition. Measures of cognitive and somatic anxiety, distancing, present-focused attention, metacognitive beliefs, and cognitive flexibility were administered before or after the attention manipulation task. Compared to the TWC group, ATT and MB-PMR were associated with greater changes on cognitive (but not somatic) anxiety, present-focused attention, metacognitive beliefs, and uncorrected errors for threat-related words on the Stroop task. The pattern of means was similar for distancing, but this did not reach statistical significance, and Stroop speed increased equally for all conditions. Indirect effects models revealed significant effects of condition on state anxiety via distancing, metacognitive beliefs, and present-focused attention, but not via Stroop errors. ATT and MB-PMR were associated with changes on anxiety and the mechanism measures, suggesting that the mechanisms of change may be more similar than different across these techniques.
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