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Five studies investigated the cognitive and emotional processes by which self-compassionate people deal with unpleasant life events. In the various studies, participants reported on negative events in their daily lives, responded to hypothetical scenarios, reacted to interpersonal feedback, rated their or others' videotaped performances in an awkwa...

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... if needed. The researcher started a video camera, situated 6 feet (1.83 m) from the participant, as well as an audiotape containing the instructions and left the room. The audiotape instructed the participant to look into the camera and make up a children’s story that began “Once upon a time, there was a little bear. . . . ” After a minute had passed, the researcher returned and randomly assigned the participant to watch either the videotape he or she had just made or a videotape made previously by another participant of his or her own gender. One third of the participants ( n ϭ 34) rated their own videotape. The other two thirds of the participants also rated one of these 34 videotapes, subject to the constraint that each tape was rated by both a low- and a high-self-compassion individual (based on a median split, Mdn ϭ 19) of the same gender as the person who recorded the tape. Thus, over the course of the study, each of the 34 target videotapes was rated three times— by the participant who had made the tape, by a low-self-compassionate participant, and by a high-self-compassionate participant. First, participants rated how they (if rating their own tape) or the other person (if rating another participant’s tape) appeared on the videotape on nine adjectives— awkward , competent , confident , attractive , nervous , foolish , creative , likable , and reasonable. Ratings were made on 7-point scales with three scale labels (1 ϭ not at all, 4 ϭ moderately, 7 ϭ extremely). Participants also rated how they felt while watching the videotape on eight emotions— relaxed , embarrassed , happy , irritable , sad , nervous , proud , and peaceful — on 7-point scales (1 ϭ not at all, 4 ϭ moderately, 7 ϭ extremely). Finally, they provided their overall evaluation of their own or the other person’s story on a 12-point scale with five equally spaced labels ( very bad , somewhat bad , neither bad nor good , somewhat good , and very good ) and rated how good or bad they felt while watching the videotape (1 ϭ very bad, 12 ϭ very good). After completing the final questionnaire, participants were debriefed and dismissed. Because each of the 34 targets’ videotapes was rated three times— by the participant him- or herself, by a low-self- compassionate participant, and by a high self-compassionate par- ticipant—analyses were conducted in a manner that accounted for the nonindependence of the data. Repeated measures multiple regression analyses were conducted using targets’ self-compassion scores, rater type (self, low-self-compassion other, high-self- compassion other), and their interaction as predictors. In this analysis, self-compassion was treated as a continuous between- subjects predictor (zero centered), and rater was treated as a categorical within-subjects predictor with three levels (dummy coded). This analysis was conducted using the general linear model procedure on SPSS and is equivalent to a between-within regression analysis that treated rater as a within-subjects factor (Pedhazur, 1997). Significant interactions were decomposed via tests of simple slopes. A multiple regression analysis performed on participants’ ratings of the story revealed a significant Self-Compassion ϫ Rater interaction, F (2, 124) ϭ 2.27, p Ͻ .05. As can be seen in Figure 4, tests of simple slopes revealed that target self-compassion was related to ratings of the story when participants rated themselves ( B ϭ 0.34), t (33) ϭ 2.32, p Ͻ .03, but was unrelated to ratings made by either low- or high-self-compassionate observers ( p s Ͼ .40). In addition, differences between self-ratings and observer ratings emerged only when targets were low in self-compassion. Given that other low- and high-self-compassionate raters detected no difference in the quality of the stories told by low- and high- self-compassion targets, it seems that low-self-compassion targets rated their own performance unduly harshly. The internal reliability of the ratings of the target (e.g., awkward, competent, confident) was high (Cronbach’s ␣ Ͼ .70), so we summed the nine items to create an overall evaluation of the target (after reverse scoring negatively valenced items). Analyses revealed a significant two-way interaction that was virtually identi- cal to that obtained on ratings of the story, F (4, 124) ϭ 2.62, p Ͻ .04, sr 2 ϭ .09. As with ratings of the story (see Figure 4), tests of simple slopes revealed that self-compassion was unrelated to either low- or high-self-compassion observers’ evaluations of the target ( p s Ͼ .85). However, when targets rated themselves, self- compassion was related to the positivity of these self-ratings ( B ϭ 0.17), t (33) ϭ 2.69, p Ͻ .01. Separate measures of positive and negative emotion were calculated by summing the relevant emotion ratings. Analysis of the sum of the four positive emotions (relaxed, happy, proud, peaceful; all ␣ s Ͼ .70) revealed a two-way Self-Compassion ϫ Rater interaction, F (1, 31) ϭ 3.70, p Ͻ .06. As seen in Figure 5, target self-compassion was related to positive emotions only when participants watched themselves ( B ϭ .18), t (33) ϭ 2.43, p Ͻ .05. Effects for low- and high-self-compassion observers were not significant ( p s Ͼ .80). Analysis of the sum of the negative emotions (embarrassed, irritable, sad, nervous; all ␣ s Ͼ .70) revealed only a main effect of target self-compassion, showing that self- compassion was inversely related to negative emotion, F (1, 31) ϭ 7.12, p Ͻ .01, sr 2 ϭ .18. This finding suggests that raters felt greater negative affect watching low-self-compassion targets, possibly because low-self-compassion targets subtly communicated their own discomfort to the raters. Participants’ overall ratings of how good versus bad they felt while watching the videotape revealed a significant Target Self- Compassion ϫ Rater interaction, F (2, 60) ϭ 3.18, p Ͻ .05, sr 2 ϭ .09. When participants watched themselves, their self-compassion scores were positively related to how good they felt ( B ϭ .36), t (33) ϭ 2.58, p Ͻ .02. However, when participants rated another individual, target self-compassion scores did not predict ratings for either low- or high-self-compassionate individuals ( B s ϭ Ϫ .07 and .04, p s Ͼ .50). The results of Study 4 provide five general conclusions about the nature of self-compassion. First, as expected, participants’ reactions to their own videotaped performances differed as a function of self-compassion. Participants who were low in self- compassion evaluated their answers less favorably and rated their personal characteristics (as observed on the videotape) less positively. They also felt worse while watching the tape compared with participants who were high in self-compassion. Second, these effects were primarily attributed to the fact that low-self-compassionate participants undervalued their performances relative to observers. Whereas self-compassionate participants’ ratings were similar to observers’ ratings, low-self- compassionate participants rated themselves significantly less positively than the observers did. This pattern is notably different than that obtained in previous studies of trait self-esteem, which generally show that high self-esteem is associated with inflated evaluations of one’s performance and characteristics relative to observers’ ratings (Robins & Beer, 2001). In contrast to the self- enhancing tendencies of people who are high in self-esteem, those who are high in self-compassion appear to judge themselves as others do. Third, the differences in low- versus high-self-compassionate participants’ self-evaluations and emotional reactions did not appear to be based on real differences in their performances. Although low-self-compassionate targets rated their performances less positively than high-self-compassionate targets did, observers did not judge low- and high-self-compassionate targets differently. This pattern suggests that the highly self-compassionate participants had more accurate perceptions of themselves than less self- compassionate participants, although the possibility exists that less self-compassionate participants were aware of negative aspects of their behavior or characteristics that were not obvious to observers. Fourth, we saw no evidence to suggest that self-compassion predicted participants’ ratings of other people. Low- and high-self- compassion observers did not differ in their evaluations of targets’ answers or personal characteristics. This finding does not bear on the issue of whether self-compassionate people treat others more compassionately (see Neff, 2003a; Salzberg, 1997) but does suggest that they do not make generally more positive evaluations of others. Finally, the results showed that self-compassion predicted positive affect when participants watched their own videotape but not when they watched others’ tapes. This finding supports Neff’s (2003b) hypothesis that self-compassion is related to equanimity in unpleasant, stressful, and awkward situations. It also provides additional evidence that self-compassion is distinct from more general feelings of compassion toward others. The first four studies documented a number of psychological concomitants of trait self-compassion and showed that self- compassion bears a distinctly different relationship to thought, behavior, and emotion than do self-esteem and narcissism. In light of the findings from the four previous studies, the purpose of Study 5 was threefold. First, Study 5 was designed to examine how self-compassion moderates people’s reactions to remembered life events. Studies 1, 3, and 4 documented the relationship between self-compassion and contemporaneous reactions to immediate events, and Study 2 examined how low- versus high-self- compassionate individuals respond to hypothetical situations. In Study 5, participants recalled a previous failure, rejection, or loss that made them feel badly about themselves and answered questions about it. The second ...

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Thesis
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