Defense Date

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Natalie Shook

Abstract

Evaluative conditioning (EC) is a type of attitude formation in which a stimulus is evaluated as positive or negative based on repeated pairings with valenced stimuli. Emerging evidence suggests that individuals differ in susceptibility to EC and these differences may be related to various social and psychological biases. One variable that has been linked with less negative attitude formation, although not using an EC paradigm, is mindfulness. Further, mindfulness is proposed to alter dimensions of elaboration that may underlie EC, particularly conditioning of negative attitudes. Therefore, three studies were conducted to examine whether mindfulness is linked to differential susceptibility to EC, particularly less conditioning of negative attitudes, and whether aspects of elaboration mediate this proposed relation. In all three studies, participants were exposed to an EC paradigm in which positive and negative pictures were paired with neutral Chinese ideographs. Then, they completed ideograph likability ratings. In Study 1, a measure of trait mindfulness was inversely associated with conditioning of negative attitudes, but not after accounting for negative state affect. In Study 2, there was no relation between either of two measures of trait mindfulness and susceptibility to EC. In Study 3, mindfulness was experimentally manipulated by randomly assigning participants to a mindful breathing induction or a mind-wandering control condition before they completed measures of elaboration and the EC paradigm. As compared to the control condition, the mindfulness condition showed greater susceptibility to conditioning of negative attitudes, after controlling for awareness of the picture-ideograph pairings. There was no support for the proposed mediation models through elaboration in either Studies 2 or 3. However, both studies provided evidence that more mindful individuals demonstrated less cognitive elaboration on negative stimuli. Further, both studies suggested that greater cognitive elaboration in response to pictures predicted less susceptibility to conditioning of positive attitudes and possibly greater susceptibility to conditioning of negative attitudes. Altogether, the three studies provided mixed and inconclusive evidence as to the relation between mindfulness and susceptibility to EC. However, the findings regarding cognitive elaboration may help to advance both the mindfulness and EC literatures.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2012

Included in

Psychology Commons

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