International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 24 Num. 2 - June 2024


Can personal meaning reduce avoidance? A systematic review of experimental analogs

Volume 24 Num. 2 - June 2024 - Pages 149-170


Vela, Javier , Villarroel, Jorge , Harana Lahera, Beatriz


Volume 24, #2- June 1, 2024

Avoidance is a kind of behavior that phylogenetically has helped humans to survive harmful situations. However, following a behavioral pattern based on avoidance is not always useful; it can render some relive from the reduction of discomfort but, in the long term, can bring suffering and destruction to the life of the person. At the same time, humans act according to a type of motivation named personal meaning, which can drive our behavior even when facing uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a contextual therapy that focuses on minimizing the pattern of avoidance and maximizing the pattern of meaningful actions, which in the long term can bring life satisfaction to the person. Various randomized controlled trials have showed that this type of interventions are effective for different psychological problems. Different experimental analogs have studied, in the laboratory, the effect of the specific ACT component of personal meaning, or values, on reducing avoidance. However, no systematic review has been found on this topic and this is the aim of the present review. The systematic search found nineteen experimental analogs and their results revealed that personal meaning is a useful tool to reduce avoidance, in the form of pain tolerance, and that psychological distancing complements effectively the positive impact of personal meaning. We discuss these results and the details of how the motivational protocols were implemented, trying to identify key elements that could help to promote more flexible behavioral patterns.

How to cite this paper: Vela J, Villarroel J, & Harana Lahera B (2024). Can personal meaning reduce avoidance? A review of experimental analogs. International Journal of Psychology & Psychological Therapy, 24, 2, 149-170

Key words:

meaning, values, avoidance, distancing, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

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