The effect of self-compassion on negative self-referential processing and its psychophysiological correlates following a social evaluative stress
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The current study investigated the effectiveness of a Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) to attenuate negative emotional processing and promote recovery following social evaluative stress. An experimental design utilising self-report, self-referential, and physiological measures of heart rate variability (HRV), skin conductance level (SCL), and heart rate (HR) was employed to investigate processes that occur during social stress and subsequent stress recovery period. Compared to participants receiving a neutral induction (n = 28), participants receiving a LKM (n = 28) reported increases in state affiliative affect. However, the differences were not significant. Although the LKM and Neutral groups showed reductions in sympathetic activity (SCL and HR) and increases in parasympathetic activity (HRV), there was no difference between the groups. In addition, no group differences were observed in self-referential processing. Moderation analyses revealed that participants in the LKM group with high trait self-criticism reported higher post-induction affiliative affect. By contrast, participants in the LKM group with high trait self-criticism exhibited more post-induction negative self-referential processing. These findings suggest that there may be marked differences between self-reported experience and behavioural experience. The current study highlights the importance of triangulating data and suggests that single induction self-compassion meditations may not promote recovery from social stress.
Doctor of Clinical Psychology