Lower Levels of Directed Exploration and Reflective Thinking Are Associated With Greater Anxiety and Depression
AffiliationDepartment of Psychology, University of Arizona
Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherFrontiers Media S.A.
CitationSmith, R., Taylor, S., Wilson, R. C., Chuning, A. E., Persich, M. R., Wang, S., & Killgore, W. D. S. (2022). Lower Levels of Directed Exploration and Reflective Thinking Are Associated With Greater Anxiety and Depression. Frontiers in Psychiatry.
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
RightsCopyright © 2022 Smith, Taylor, Wilson, Chuning, Persich, Wang and Killgore. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).
Collection InformationThis item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AbstractAnxiety and depression are often associated with strong beliefs that entering specific situations will lead to aversive outcomes – even when these situations are objectively safe and avoiding them reduces well-being. A possible mechanism underlying this maladaptive avoidance behavior is a failure to reflect on: (1) appropriate levels of uncertainty about the situation, and (2) how this uncertainty could be reduced by seeking further information (i.e., exploration). To test this hypothesis, we asked a community sample of 416 individuals to complete measures of reflective cognition, exploration, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Consistent with our hypotheses, we found significant associations between each of these measures in expected directions (i.e., positive relationships between reflective cognition and strategic information-seeking behavior or “directed exploration”, and negative relationships between these measures and anxiety/depression symptoms). Further analyses suggested that the relationship between directed exploration and depression/anxiety was due in part to an ambiguity aversion promoting exploration in conditions where information-seeking was not beneficial (as opposed to only being due to under-exploration when more information would aid future choices). In contrast, reflectiveness was associated with greater exploration in appropriate settings and separately accounted for differences in reaction times, decision noise, and choice accuracy in expected directions. These results shed light on the mechanisms underlying information-seeking behavior and how they may contribute to symptoms of emotional disorders. They also highlight the potential clinical relevance of individual differences in reflectiveness and exploration and should motivate future research on their possible contributions to vulnerability and/or maintenance of affective disorders. Copyright © 2022 Smith, Taylor, Wilson, Chuning, Persich, Wang and Killgore.
NoteOpen access journal
VersionFinal published version
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Copyright © 2022 Smith, Taylor, Wilson, Chuning, Persich, Wang and Killgore. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).