Distraction from negative feelings linked to improved problem solving

June 21, 2012 by George Manlove

(Medical Xpress) -- Brooding, or excessive rumination over negative feelings, is known to interfere with important problem-solving abilities, while immediate distraction from those feelings can increase problem-solving capacity, according to new research by a University of Maine Department of Psychology faculty member and a colleague.

In the study, 51 participants watched a short movie clip that was intended to make them feel sad. Afterward, participants who immediately distracted themselves from the were better able to move on in the pursuit of solutions, compared to the participants who engaged in rumination immediately after watching the clip.

UMaine K. Lira Yoon and Jutta Joorman of the University of Miami Department of Psychology found it is not the use of specific strategies, but rather the timing of strategies that is critical to decreasing sad moods and promoting effective .

Yoon and Joormann published their results in an article, “Is Timing Everything? Sequential Effects of Rumination and Distraction on Interpersonal Problem Solving,” in the June issue of the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.

“Regardless of whether participants further engaged in distraction or rumination, those who responded to the negative mood induction with immediate distraction generated more effective solutions to interpersonal problems compared to participants who responded to the negative mood induction with immediate rumination,” the authors write in the article. “Rumination had no detrimental effects on problem solving (even) if the person initially engaged in distraction. An initial period of distraction, thus, seems to protect individuals from the detrimental effects of rumination on problem solving.”

The findings may provide further insight into the relation between rumination and depression, the authors say. Poor interpersonal problem solving can lead to higher levels of interpersonal stress, which may then increase risk for a depressive episode. Implications for treatments could include not only targeting problem-solving strategies directly — an effective intervention when treating depression — but to also help individuals engage in in a timely manner.

Explore further: Good ruminations or bad ruminations in the depressed brain?

Related Stories

Good ruminations or bad ruminations in the depressed brain?

August 22, 2011
All of us, at times, ruminate or brood on a problem in order to make the best possible decision in a complex situation. But sometimes, rumination becomes unproductive or even detrimental to making good life choices. Such ...

Personality, habits of thought and gender influence how we remember

April 10, 2012
We all have them – positive memories of personal events that are a delight to recall, and painful recollections that we would rather forget. A new study reveals that what we do with our emotional memories and how they ...

Want to solve a problem? Don't just use your brain, but your body too

June 1, 2011
When we’ve got a problem to solve, we don’t just use our brains but the rest of our bodies, too. The connection, as neurologists know, is not uni-directional. Now there’s evidence from cognitive psychology ...

Activity in brain networks related to features of depression

April 3, 2012
Depressed individuals with a tendency to ruminate on negative thoughts, i.e. to repeatedly think about particular negative thoughts or memories, show different patterns of brain network activation compared to healthy individuals, ...

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.