Experimental induction of psychotherapeutically relevant emotional states

Rohde, Kristina Barbara; Caspar, Franz; Pascual-Leone, Antonio; Stein, Maria (4 December 2012). Experimental induction of psychotherapeutically relevant emotional states (Unpublished). In: 8th Annual Meeting of the Clinical Neuroscience. Bern. 04.12.2012.

Background: Emotion research in neuroscience targets brain structures and processes involved in discrete emotion categories (e.g. anger, fear, sadness) or dimensions (e.g. valence, arousal, approach-avoidance), and usually relies on carefully controlled experimental paradigms with standardized and often simple emotion-eliciting stimuli like e.g. unpleasant pictures. Emotion research in clinical psychology and psychotherapy is often interested in very subtle differences between emotional states, e.g. differences within emotion categories (e.g. assertive, self-protecting vs. rejecting, protesting anger or specific grief vs. global sadness), and/or the biographical, social, situational, or motivational contexts of the emotional experience, which are desired to be minimized in experimental neuroscientific research. Objective: In order to facilitate the experimental and neurophysiological investigation of psychotherapeutically relevant emotional experiences, the present study aims at developing a priming procedure to induce specific, therapeutically and biographically relevant emotional states under controlled experimental conditions. Methodology: N = 50 participants who reported negative feelings towards another close person were randomly assigned to 2 different conditions. They fulfilled 2 different sentence completion tasks that were supposed to prime either ‘therapeutically productive’ or ‘therapeutically unproductive’ emotional states and completed an expressive writing task and several self-report measures of specific emotion-related constructs. The sentence completion task consisted in max. 22 sentence stems drawn from psychotherapy patients’ statements that have been shown to be typical for productive or unproductive therapy sessions. The subjects of the present study completed these sentence stems with regard to their own negative feelings towards the close person. Results: There were a substantial inter-individual variability concerning the number of completed sentences, and significant correlations between number of completed sentences and problem activation in both conditions. No differences were observed in general mood or problem activation between both groups after priming. Descriptively, there were differences between groups concerning emotion regulation aspects. Significant differences between groups in resolution of negative feelings towards the other person were found. Discussion: The results point in the expected direction, however the small sample sizes (after exclusion of several subjects) and low power hinder the detection of convincing significant effects. More data is needed in order to evaluate the efficacy of this emotional priming procedure.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy

UniBE Contributor:

Rohde, Kristina Barbara; Caspar, Franz and Stein, Maria


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Adriana Biaggi

Date Deposited:

03 Jun 2014 13:43

Last Modified:

26 Feb 2015 11:00



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