An experimental investigation of the effects of perspective-taking on emotional discomfort, cognitive fusion and self-compassion

Louise Boland, Dorian Campbell, Monika Fazekas, Wataru Kitagawa, Lorna MacIver, Klaudia Rzeczkowska, David Gillanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Perspective-taking exercises are used in a range of therapies, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Therapy (CT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT). Perspective-taking has been theorised in ACT to foster cognitive defusion, self-compassion and a sense of self as distinct from and containing self-related negative thoughts and feelings. To date, few experimental studies have investigated the impact of typical perspective-taking exercises. This study sought to investigate whether perspective-taking exercises were able to decrease state cognitive fusion and emotional discomfort and increase state self-compassion associated with a self-related, negative thought (SRNT). It also sought to investigate whether there are differences in effects between temporal (‘now’ vs ’then’) and interpersonal (‘self’ vs ‘other’)perspective-taking and between giving and receiving perspectives.
Method: A convenience sample of non-clinical participants (n = 61) generated a SRNT and then rated levels of emotional discomfort, state cognitive fusion and state self-compassion in relation to the thought. Participants were then guided through three within-participant conditions: a control procedure, a giving perspective and a receiving perspective condition.Participants were allocated to one of two groups: temporal perspective-taking or interpersonal perspective-taking. Mixed ANOVAs showed that both interpersonal and temporal exercises significantly reduced emotional discomfort and cognitive fusion and increased self-compassion associated with a SRNT. The effects of giving or receiving perspective differed between interpersonal and temporal groups.
Conclusion: These results provide experimental evidence that perspective-taking is a psychologically beneficial process, therefore supporting the existing use of perspective taking exercises in clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Contextual Behavioral Science
Early online date22 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • acceptance and commitment Therapy
  • relational Frame Theory
  • perspective-taking
  • self-compassion
  • cognitive defusion
  • compassion-focused therapy


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