University of Sussex
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Examining systematic information processing as a mechanism of preseverative worry

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posted on 2023-06-08, 15:06 authored by Suzanne Dash
The mechanisms accounting for how negative mood, intolerance of uncertainty (IU), and low problem-solving confidence (PSC) increase worrying are poorly understood. One possibility is that these variables result in a detailed, analytical, and cognitively demanding form of information processing, known as systematic processing. This thesis examines whether worry promoters (negative mood, IU, and low PSC) increase an individual’s likelihood of deploying systematic processing. Furthermore, the impact of these variables on threat perception and coping beliefs – factors affecting both worry and systematic processing – is explored. Six studies were conducted. The first five utilised experimental manipulations of mood, IU and PSC, whilst the sixth used questionnaires. Systematic processing deployment was indexed by sufficiency threshold measures (confidence that processing goals are satisfactorily accomplished) and a questionnaire. Participants induced into a negative mood had raised sufficiency thresholds; they were more likely to deploy systematic processing High IU and low PSC manipulations did not cause an increase in the likelihood of using systematic processing, but these variables correlated with an increased likelihood of deploying systematic processing Only negative mood correlated with increased threat perception when regression analyses were conducted controlling for each of the worry promoters All three worry promoters correlated with decreased threat coping beliefs A small negative correlation was found between worry and systematic processing PSC showed some construct overlap with systematic processing Consequently, negative mood states may encourage individuals to systematically process threats that they perceive. But worry is also defined by IU and low PSC, factors which diminish self-efficacy appraisals in the form of coping beliefs. These low coping beliefs may serve to dissuade the individual from typically deploying cognitively demanding systematic processing. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of the role of systematic processing as a mechanism of perseverative worry.


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University of Sussex

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