A Grounded Cognition Perspective on Irrational Beliefs in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Article excerpt


Knowledge has been the subject of different controversial theories in psychology; recently the idea that knowledge is grounded in the modal systems of the brain has gained considerable evidence. This paper discusses applications of the grounded cognition theory to irrational beliefs, a main concept of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), proposed as core cognitive vulnerabilities for emotional disorders. Irrational beliefs, as grounded maladaptive emotional knowledge structures are considered the result of interactions between linguistic representations and simulations in motivational and emotional brain processing circuits. It is proposed that irrational beliefs (e.g., demandingness) are represented by distorted simulations in motivational and emotional brain processing circuits that bias the online processing of activating events. This biased emotional processing generates emotional disturbance. A three-level model of irrational beliefs is presented. The impact of irrational beliefs on emotions can be analyzed at the verbal or linguistic symbols level, at the simulations and modal symbols level and at the level of relations between verbal symbols and modal symbols. Maladaptive mechanisms and proposed corrective cognitive interventions are analyzed at each level. We conclude that a grounded perspective on irrational beliefs increases the explanatory power of the REBT theory of emotions.

Keywords: grounded cognition, irrational beliefs, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, cognitive restructuring

Knowledge is essential for the existence of all living beings; it gives them past and future, the chance of intelligent behavior and coordinated responses to the environment. Various models and perspectives have been developed regarding the role of knowledge in determining human responses. Moreover, knowledge is profoundly involved in human psychological dysfunctions. The field of cognitive clinical sciences is focused on types of knowledge and knowledge processes that promote psychological disturbance. Various psychological therapies, such as cognitive oriented therapies, have been developed around the idea of modifying specific types of knowledge and cognitive processes or cognitive vulnerabilities that promote psychological disturbance.

The oldest form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) assumes that specific types of maladaptive knowledge (i.e., irrational beliefs) are the core cognitive vulnerably for emotional disorders. There are four types of irrational beliefs, as described in REBT (Ellis, 1994): demandingness (DEM), awfulizing/catastrophizing (AWF), low frustration tolerance (LFT) and global evaluation of human worth or self-downing (SD). The cornerstone of REBT is the "ABCDE" model (Ellis, 1994). According to the "ABCDE" model, people experience adversities (A), about which they have rational and irrational beliefs (B). These beliefs lead to emotional, behavioral and cognitive consequences (C). Rational beliefs (RBs) lead to functional consequences, while irrational beliefs (IBs) lead to dysfunctional consequences. Clients are encouraged to actively dispute (D) their IBs and to assimilate more efficient (E), adaptive and rational beliefs, with a positive impact on their emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses (Ellis, 1994).

Recently theory and research in REBT addressed the organization of irrational beliefs, mainly in terms of propositions (Ellis, 1994; Dryden, 1984; Wessler & Wessler, 1980) or in terms of schemata (DiGiuseppe, 1996; Nielsen, 2003; Szentagotai, Schnur, DiGiuseppe, Macavei, Kallay, & David, 2005). Schemata and propositions are essential concepts of the symbolic approach in cognitive psychology (Eysenk & Keane, 2000). The propositional and schematic views of irrational beliefs are both based on the assumption of irrational beliefs as amodal symbolic representations. According to this view, information in the physical world produces neural states in the perceptual system. …


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