A preliminary investigation from the November 2013 Japanese Journal of Personality explored the effects of metacognitive therapy on depressive rumination.2 Twelve college students who had scored high on measures of rumination were randomly assigned to a metacognitive therapy group for two weeks, while eleven other students were assigned to a control group that did not receive treatment during the study period.

The metacognitive intervention was found to reduce the frequency of rumination, and this change was “related to the disconfirmation of the belief that rumination increases insight into oneself and situations — a type of positive metacognitive belief about rumination,” study author Akira Hasegawa, PhD, of Tokai Gakuin University, Kakamigahara, Japan,  said in an interview with Psychiatry Advisor.


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Another 2013 study found more positive and negative beliefs about worry — such as “I can’t control my worry” and “My worry helps me to solve problems” — among children with anxiety disorders than among non-anxious controls.6 “Metacognitions cause a particular pattern of responding to inner experience that maintains emotion and strengthens negative ideas” about feared outcomes, says Bailey.

People may attempt to suppress certain types of thoughts if they believe such thoughts are “bad,” and these attempts can backfire and lead to even more undesirable thoughts. Research published in the May 2013 issue of Behaviour Research & Therapy explored the effects manipulating metacognitive beliefs on the development of obsessive-compulsive symptoms.3 Participants underwent a fake electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain, which they were led to believe could detect thoughts about drinking (drinking in general, not necessarily alcohol).