Effects of positive metacognitions and meta-emotions on coping, stress perception and emotions

Beer, Nils (2011) Effects of positive metacognitions and meta-emotions on coping, stress perception and emotions. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Increasing empirical evidence within the last decade suggests that onset and maintenance of major depressive disorder and other psychological disorders share a metacognitive aetiology. Metacognition refers to self-knowledge, control and monitoring of one's own thinking processes and has by nature negative connotations in the context of psychopathological disorders. The core aims of this thesis comprised the development, validation and outcome-focussed test of a novel instrument for the assessment of adaptive metacognitive and meta-emotional self-regulation, as opposed to maladaptive metacognitive regulation within psychopathological models. The stimulus for this research was provided by a plethora of evidence that the reverse, i.e. maladaptive, metacognitions contribute to the aetiology of a range of psychological disorders. The rationale was that if the novel instrument of positive metacognitions and meta-emotions showed good psychometric properties, the underlying psychological constructs could inform clinical and coaching interventions or at least increase awareness of self-regulatory means for maintaining and sustaining psychological equilibrium in times of challenge, unpredictability and ambiguity. Whereas models of maladaptive metacognitions (e.g. Wells and Matthews, 1994, 1996; Wells, 2000, 2009) have been empirically tested in the realm of psychopathology, no research has yet been conducted with regards to the psychological effects of adaptive metacognitions and meta-emotions. Core objectives of the five studies within this thesis encompassed the development of an instrument to measure positive metacognitions and meta-emotions, its subsequent statistical validation and the investigation of the impacts adaptive metacognitions exert on coping, stress perception and emotions.
Chapter 1 introduces the historical origins and fundamental conceptualisations of metacognitions, meta-emotions and relevant associated psychological constructs. It then describes Wells and Matthews' (1994, 1996) Self-Regulatory Executive Function (S-REF) model and Wells' (2000) metacognitive model of emotional disorders which provided the framework for deriving the inverse constructs of positive metacognitions and meta-emotions.
In Chapter 2 the qualitative Study 1 is described which attempted to derive positive metacognitive self-regulatory processes by extending Wells and Matthews' (1994, 1996) and Wells' (2000, 2009) metacognitive model of psychological and emotional disorders and blending it with adaptive assets within a positive psychology framework. Thirteen interviewees were recruited by purposive sampling based on their assumed positive metacognitions and adaptive personality assets. A semistructured interview schedule was employed to elicit interviewees' recall of selfregulatory processes and also their accounts of adaptive assets when facing challenging tasks or projects. Transcripts were analysed utilising Hayes' (1997) Theory-led Thematic Analysis blended with a Grounded Theory approach. Results reflected that the majority of participants used adaptive metacognitions. The derived metacognitive framework of adaptive self-regulation during challenge comprised three factors: (1) Confidence in Extinguishing Perseveration, (2) Confidence in Interpreting Own Emotions as Cues, Restraining from Immediate Reaction and MindSetting for Problem-Solving and (3) Confidence in Setting Flexible and Feasible Hierarchies of Goals. In terms of assets, resilience emerged as a key theme with the two subordinate themes of agency and communion. Study 1 revealed that long-term challenge scenarios require a higher degree of resilience-related factors, whereas selfregulation appears to be crucial when the challenge is of a short-term nature. The aforementioned confidence domains of adaptive metacognitive (and meta-emotional) self-regulation provided the framework for the item wording and the development of a questionnaire measuring adaptive metacognitive and meta-emotional beliefs in the midst of challenging situations.
Chapter 3 describes Study 2 which developed and validated the Positive Metacognitions and Positive Meta-Emotions Questionnaire (PMCEQ) which taps individuals' adaptive metacognitive beliefs and regulation strategies when facing challenging situations. 313 participants completed a preliminary version of the questionnaire whose items were derived from the qualitative Study 1 in Chapter 2. Exploratory factor analysis identified three intercorrelated factors that accorded with the confidence categories that emerged in the qualitative analysis. The three-factor questionnaire was reduced from an initial item pool of 49 to a final 18 items, with each factor consisting of 6 items. The three factors (dimensions or sub scales) of the PMCEQ will subsequently be referred to as PMCEQ-l, PMCEQ-2 and PMCEQ-3, respectively.
Chapter 4 describes Study 3, in which 475 participants completed the developed PMCEQ, Meta-Cognitions Questionnaire 30 (MCQ-30), and Work Preference Inventory (WPI), with the aim of establishing and assessing the concurrent validity of the PMCEQ. Confirmatory factor analysis corroborated the structure of the scale. Subscale scores had meaningful correlations with measures of maladaptive metacognition and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The findings indicate that the developed PMCEQ scale produces valid and reliable scores.
Chapter 5 outlines Study 4, Part A which explored the linear relationships between maladaptive metacognitions (MCQ-30) and PMCEQ factors as independent variables and adaptive coping strategies, maladaptive coping strategies and perceived stress as outcome variables. A convenience sample of 212 participants completed the following questionnaires: PMCEQ, MCQ-30, Brief Coping Questionnaire (COPE), and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Due to fairly high intercorrelation between PMCEQ-2 and PMCEQ-3, with potential problems for SEM techniques, both factors were integrated into the aggregated PMCEQ-2* construct. Results showed that all hypothesised paths of the PMCEQ were significant and in line with the hypotheses: PMCEQ-l - Confidence in Extinguishing Perseveration - was negatively predictive of maladaptive coping strategies and perceived stress. The composite and agency related PMCEQ-2/PMCEQ-3 construct (PMCEQ-2*) - Confidence in Interpreting Own Emotions, Restraining from Immediate Reaction, and Mind-Setting for Problem Solving with subsequent Confidence in Setting Flexible and Feasible Hierarchies of Goals - positively predicted adaptive coping strategies and negatively predicted perceived stress. Interestingly, the MCQ-30 showed no significant relationships with any of the three outcome variables in the final SEM model.
These findings suggest that adaptation to challenging situations not only requires the absence of maladaptive metacognitive traits but, moreover, the presence of positive metacognitive and positive meta-emotional traits as measured by the PMCEQ.
Extending Study 4, Part A,
Chapter 6 describes the final Study 4, Part B, using the same participants as Part A, in which the relationships between the PMCEQ and MCQ-30 as independent variables and anxiety and depression as outcome variables were assessed. Anxiety and depression were measured by means of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. PMCEQ-l was strongly and negatively correlated with anxiety and depression; the same applied to PMCEQ-2 but to a lesser extent. The more agentic, rather than perseveration decreasing, PMCEQ-3 did not predict anxiety or depression. In line with a plethora of previous research evidence the MCQ-30 positively and strongly predicted anxiety and depression.
Inherent strengths and limitations of the five studies comprising research and their implications for theory, research and practice are addressed in the General Discussion. Derived practice recommendations comprise treatment implications and interventions in clinical, counselling and coaching psychology.

540610.pdf - Published Version

Download (11MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item