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When the Self Becomes Other

Toward an Integrative Understanding of the Processes Distinguishing Adaptive Self-reflection from Rumination


  • This paper was based on a lecture delivered at the Barcelona Social Brain conference.

Address for correspondence: Ethan Kross, Department of Psychology, 530 Church Street, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109. Voice: 734-763-5640.


How can people adaptively analyze and “work through” negative feelings without ruminating? This paper will briefly review findings from an integrative program of research, which suggests that a critical factor determining whether people's attempts to adaptively reason about negative experiences succeed or fail is the type of self-perspective they adopt. That is, whether people analyze their feelings from a self-immersed or self-distanced perspective. The implications of shifting self-perspectives for subjective experience, autonomic nervous system reactivity, and neural activity are discussed.