The Role of Metacognitive Beliefs and the Cognitive Attentional Syndrome in the Development of Anxiety Symptoms: A Cross-Lagged Panel Design
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
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The metacognitive model of emotional disorders suggests that the cognitive attentional syndrome (CAS; i.e., a set of seven maladaptive self-regulation strategies) is activated by one’s beliefs about their own thoughts, otherwise referred to as metacognitive beliefs. Two types of metacognitive beliefs have been considered particularly important for activating the CAS: positive metacognitive beliefs and negative metacognitive beliefs. According to this model, the habitual use of CAS strategies exacerbates emotional distress, leading to the development of emotional disorders such as anxiety disorders. While research has shown that CAS strategies and metacognitive beliefs are strongly related to anxiety symptoms, there has been limited evidence supporting the assertion that maladaptive metacognitive beliefs activate the CAS, which leads to anxiety. Additionally, no known study has examined the distinct roles that these two different types of metacognitive beliefs play in CAS activation and anxiety. To provide further support for the metacognitive model and fill this gap in the literature, the present study sought out to examine the mediating role of the CAS in the relationships between positive and negative metacognitive beliefs and anxiety. A large sample of adult participants (N = 573) completed an online self-report battery at three time points across seven months. A series of path analyses showed that time 2 CAS activation mediated the relationship between time 1 negative metacognitive beliefs and time 3 anxiety. This effect was specific to negative metacognitive beliefs, as the longitudinal path across time 1 positive metacognitive beliefs, time 2 CAS activation, and time 3 anxiety was non-significant. Thus, negative metacognitive beliefs may be more important to CAS activation and subsequent anxiety than positive metacognitive beliefs. Study findings suggest that it may be especially important to focus on negative metacognitive beliefs and the CAS in anxiety treatment, as is done in Metacognitive Therapy (MCT).