An Investigation of Sequencing Effects in Combining Cognitive Questioning and Mindful Acceptance

Rosita Borlimi, Gerhard Benetka, Gianni Brighetti, Gabriele Caselli, Elisabetta Caletti, Carolina A. Redaelli, Giovanni M. Ruggiero, Diego Sarracino, Sandra Sassaroli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cognitive-behavioral treatments assume that the mechanisms of change depend on the assessment and questioning of biased beliefs. In contrast, recent developments have emphasized mindful acceptance interventions, in which clients allow thoughts to come and go without questioning them. In order to discuss therapeutic efficacy difference in emotional disorders, we explored the possible normalizing effects of cognitive questioning and mindful acceptance on sympathetic reactivity aroused by recall tasks. We compared the effects of different sequencing of cognitive questioning and mindful acceptance on emotional distress in two groups in which questioning either preceded (group 1) or followed (group 2) acceptance. Thirty-five non-clinical individuals (21 males, 14 females) randomly allocated to either group 1 or 2 participated in the experimental tasks (unpleasant recall, cognitive questioning, and metacognitive acceptance). Sympathetic reactivity levels were measured using galvanic skin response. Results showed that acceptance reduced sympathetic reactivity when compared to questioning. The best sequence was that in which questioning preceded acceptance. By interpreting sympathetic reactivity as a measure of emotional distress and experimental tasks as models for therapeutic approaches, this experiment suggests that acceptance is better than questioning in reducing emotional distress especially when cognitive questioning is followed by mindful acceptance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284–298
JournalJournal of Rational - Emotive and Cognitive - Behavior Therapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Acceptance
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Metacognition
  • Questioning
  • Sympathetic reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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