ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 8, Issue 2, 88-109, 2017
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The “How” and the “Why” of Restoring Goal-Pursuit after a Failure: A Pilot Intervention Study

  Eugenia Gorlin - University of Virginia
  Bethany Teachman - University of Virginia

Volume 8, Issue 2, 2017, Pages 88-109


Maladaptive coping with failure can cause considerable distress and impairment. This study tested a novel intervention that trains participants to process both the value (“why”) and means (“how”) of reengaging in adaptive goal-pursuit after a failure. Students (N=263) received bogus failure feedback on an academic test battery, and were randomly assigned to Why-only, How-only, or Combined (How+Why) goal-focused training, or a “free-thinking” Control condition, before completing a second battery. Cognitive performance, rumination, and negative affect during both batteries were assessed. Trait rumination and an aggregate of emotion-related symptoms were examined as moderators. Results in the overall sample were mixed, with Combined and Control participants both showing some benefits from training. Notably, among high-ruminative and high-symptom participants, Combined training yielded the greatest improvement in reading comprehension and rumination, as expected. Results, though mixed, suggest this novel intervention may hold promise for enhancing failure resilience in emotionally vulnerable samples. 

Table of Contents
 Asking “How” versus “Why” during Post-failure Processing
 Potential Moderators
 Overview and Hypotheses
  Prescreening and baseline measures.
  State rumination and affect measures.
  Cognitive performance measures.
  Rumination induction task.
  Intervention conditions.
  “Why-only” condition.
    “How-only” condition.
  “Combined” condition.
  "Free-thinking" Control condition.
  Funnel debriefing.
 Data Reduction and Scoring
 Descriptive Statistics and Zero-order Correlations
 Overview of Analytic Strategy
 Effects of Failure and Rumination Induction on Negative Affect
 Effects of Goal-Focused Processing Conditions on Primary Outcomes
  Cognitive performance.
  Reading comprehension.
  Fluency and Problem-solving.
  State rumination.
  State negative affect.
 Theoretical Implications: When and for Whom is How+Why Goal-focused Processing Beneficial?
  Differential effects of processing condition on cognitive performance measures.
  Benefits of “free-thinking” control condition, especially for healthy participants.
 Potential Clinical Implications
 Limitations and Conclusion

Correspondence to
Eugenia I. Gorlin at the University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA 22904

negative affect, post-failure rumination, goals, cognitive performance, training, depression, anxiety, individual differences

Received 28 Oct 2016; Revised 28 Oct 2016; Accepted 28 Oct 2016; In Press 19 Feb 2017

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