Worrying Leads to Reduced Concreteness of Problem Elaborations: Evidence for the Avoidance Theory of Worry

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Stoeber, Joachim ; Tepperwien, Sven ; Staak, Mirjam (2000)

Both lay concept and scientific theory have embraced the view that nonpathological worry may be helpful for defining and analyzing problems. To evaluate the quality of problem elaborations, concreteness is a key variable. Two studies with nonclinical student samples are presented in which participants elaborated topics associated with different degrees of worry. In Study 1, participants' elaborations were assessed using problem elaboration charts; in Study 2, they were assessed using catastrophizing interviews. When participants' problem elaborations were rated for concreteness, both studies showed an inverse relationship between degree of worry and concreteness: The more participants worried about a given topic the less concrete was the content of their elaboration. The results challenge the view that worry may promote better problem analyses. Instead they conform to the view that worry is a cognitive avoidance response.
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