Experimental Psychopathology and Component Studies

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Experimental Psychopathology and Component Studies by Year

Below is a list of experimental psychopathology and analogue studies testing components of ACT. Intervention scripts for several of the studies are available here.

In Press


  • Degen, L.M. (2008)Acceptance-based emotion regulation, perceptions of control, state mindfulness, anxiety sensitivity, and experiential avoidance: Predicting response to hyperventilation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. American University.


  • Cochrane, A., Barnes-Holmes, D., Barnes-Holmes, Y., Stewart, I., & Luciano, C. (2007). Experiential avoidance and aversive visual images: Response delays and event related potentials on a simple matching task. Behavior Research and Therapy, 45, 1379-1388.

    Two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants high (n = 15) or low in avoidance (n = 14), as measured by the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire, completed a simple matching task that required them to choose whether or not to look at an aversive visual image. Only the high-avoidance participants took longer to emit a correct response that produced an aversive rather than a neutral picture. Additionally, the high-avoiders reported greater levels of anxiety following the experiment even though they rated the aversive images as less unpleasant and less emotionally arousing than their low-avoidant counterparts. In Experiment 2, three groups, representing high- mid- and low-avoidance (n = 6 in each) repeated the matching task with the additional recording of event related potentials (ERPs). The findings replicated Experiment 1 but also showed that high-EA subjects had significantly greater negativity for electrodes over the left hemisphere relative to the midline suggesting that the high-EA group engaged in verbal strategies to regulate their emotional responses.

  • Forman, E.M., Hoffman, K.L., McGrath, K.B., Herbert, J.D., Brandsma, L.L. & Lowe, M.R. (2007). A comparison of acceptance- and control-based strategies for coping with food cravings: An analog study.Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 2372-2386.

    98 participants with chocolate cravings were exposed to a CBT-based protocol and an ACT-based protocol or no instructions and required to carry chocolate with them of for two days. Those more impacted by food related cues ate less and had fewer cravings in the ACT condition.

  • Marcks, B.A. & Woods, D.W. (2007). Role of thought-related beliefs and coping strategies in the escalation of intrusive thoughts: An analog to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 2640–2651.
  • Masedo, A.I. & Esteve, M.R. (2007). Effects of suppression, acceptance and spontaneous coping on pain tolerance, pain intensity and distress. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 199-209.

    A large and well-controlled randomized study that replicated Hayes, Bissett, Korn, Zettle, Rosenfarb, Cooper, & Grundt, 1999. Acceptance methods drawn from the 1999 ACT book and from the Hayes et al. 1999 pain study (the methods used included an acceptance rationale, practicing awareness of experience, the “Passengers on the Bus” exercise, and the ‘Two Scales Metaphor’) increased pain tolerance and decreased pain ratings in a cold pressor task as compared both to suppression methods (based on thought stopping) and to participants preferred method of coping (which tended to include distraction, relaxation, and keeping the hand still). The latter two conditions did not differ from each other in the main analysis.

  • Tull, M.T. & Roemer, L. (2007). Emotion regulation difficulties associated with the experience of uncued panic attacks: Evidence of experiential avoidance, emotional nonacceptance, and decreased emotional clarity. Behavior Therapy, 38(4), 378-391.


  • Campbell-Sills, L., Barlow, D. H., Brown, T. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2006). Effects of suppression and acceptance on emotional responses of individuals with anxiety and mood disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 1251-1263.

    Similar to the study above, brief acceptance methods led to lower heart rate during exposure to an aversive film and less negative affect during the post-film recovery period that did control strategies in individuals with anxiety and mood disorders.

  • Campbell-Sills, L., Barlow, D. H., Brown, T. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2006). Acceptability and suppression of negative emotion in anxiety and mood disorders. Emotion, 6(4), 587–595.

    This study compared the responses of participants from a clinical and non-clinical sample to an emotion provoking film. The study found that participants from the clinical group spontaneously used suppression to a greater degree than non-clinical participants and that attempts at suppression were associated with greater distress.

  • Williams, L.M. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An example of third-wave therapy as a treatment for Australian Vietnam War veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: Unpublished dissertation, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, New South Wales.


  • Keogh, E., Bond, F. W., Hanmer, R. & Tilston, J. (2005). Comparing acceptance and control-based coping instructions on the cold-pressor pain experiences of healthy men and women. European Journal of Pain, 9, 591-598.

    Simple acceptance-based coping instructions improved affective pain more than distraction but only for women.

    Tested acceptance- and control-based instructions in a cold pressor task. The result showed that the acceptance-based coping strategy could reduce self-reported pain, and that males and females reacted to the coping strategies differently. Females produced lower pain level following the acceptance-based strategy than males

  • Marcks, B. A. & Woods, D. W. (2005). A comparison of thought suppression to an acceptance-based technique in the management of personal intrusive thoughts: A controlled evaluation. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43, 433-445.

    Two studies. Correlational study shows suppressing personally relevant intrusive thoughts is associated with more thoughts, more distress, greater urge to do something. Those who accept are less obsessional, depressed and anxious. Experimental study shows that instructions to suppress does not work and leads to increased level of distress; instructions of accept (using a couple of short metaphors drawn from the ACT book) decreases discomfort but not thought frequency.


  • Masuda, A., Hayes, S. C., Sackett, C. F., & Twohig, M. P. (2004). Cognitive defusion and self-relevant negative thoughts: Examining the impact of a ninety year old technique. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 477-485.

    Shows in a series of time-series designs and a group study, that the “milk, milk, milk” defusion technique reduces distress and believability of negative self-referential thoughts

  • Gutiérrez, O., Luciano, C., Rodríguez, M., & Fink, B. C. (2004). Comparison between an acceptance-based and a cognitive-control-based protocol for coping with pain. Behavior Therapy, 35, 767-784.

    Randomized study with analogue pain task showing greater tolerance for pain in the defusion and acceptance-based condition drawn from ACT as compared to a closely parallel cognitive-control based condition.

  • Karekla, M., Forsyth, J. P., & Kelly, M. M. (2004). Emotional avoidance and panicogenic responding to a biological challenge procedure.Behavior Therapy, 35, 725-746.

    Normal participants high or low on the AAQ were exposed to a CO2 challenge. High emotional avoiders reported more panic symptoms than low avoiders. No difference physiologically.

  • Levitt, J. T., Brown, T. A., Orsillo, S. M., & Barlow, D. H. (2004). The effects of acceptance versus suppression of emotion on subjective and psychophysiological response to carbon dioxide challenge in patients with panic disorder. Behavior Therapy, 35, 747-766.

    Acceptance methods (drawn directly from the ACT book) did a better job than control strategies in promoting successful exposure in panic disordered patients

  • Sloan, D. M. (2004). Emotion regulation in action: Emotional reactivity in experiential avoidance. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 1257-1270.

    Examined the relationship between emotional reactivity (self-report and physiological reactivity) to pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral emotion-eliciting stimuli and experiential avoidance as measured by the AAQ. Sixty-two participants were separated into high and low experiential avoiders. Results indicated that high EA participants reported greater emotional experience to both unpleasant and pleasant stimuli compared to low EA participants. In contrast to their heightened reports of emotion, high EA participants displayed attenuated heart rate reactivity to the unpleasant stimuli relative to the low EA participants. Findings were interpreted as reflecting an emotion regulation attempt by high EA participants when confronted with unpleasant emotion-evocative stimuli.


  • Eifert, G. H. & Heffner, M. (2003). The effects of acceptance versus control contexts on avoidance of panic-related symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 34, 293-312.

    Randomized study comparing control versus acceptance during a CO2 challenge with anxious subjects. Acceptance oriented exercise (the finger trap) reduced avoidance, anxiety symptoms, and anxious cognitions as compared to breathing training.

  • Feldner, M. T., Zvolensky, M. J., Eifert, G. H., & Spira, A. P. (2003). Emotional avoidance: An experimental tests of individual differences and response suppression during biological challenge. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41, 403-411.

    High emotional avoidance subjects showed more anxiety in response to CO2, particularly when instructed to suppress their emotions.


  • Takahashi, M., Muto, T., Tada, M., & Sugiyama, M. (2002). Acceptance rationale and increasing pain tolerance: Acceptance-based and FEAR-based practice. Japanese Journal of Behavior Therapy, 28, 35-46.

    Small randomized trial that replicated Hayes, Bissett, Korn, Zettle, Rosenfarb, Cooper, & Grundt, 1999. An acceptance rationale plus two ACT defusion exercises (leaves on the stream and physicalizing) did significantly better than a match control focused intervention on pain tolerance, or a lecture on pain.

1999 or Before