Details of Thesis

TitleDeveloping a Measure of Cognitive Deconstruction
Author Nicholes, Zoë Clare
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2010
AbstractThe aim of this thesis was to develop a reliable and valid measure of cognitive deconstruction, a defensive state marked by a person's attempted refusal to engage in meaningful thought and undertake integrative, interpretive mental acts (Baumeister, 1990a). Cognitive deconstruction has been described to occur for some people following the experience of social exclusion. Cognitive deconstruction limits meaningful thought, and subsequently allows a person to escape from aversive self awareness and emotional distress that may arise should he or she interpret the exclusion. The eight specific characteristics of cognitive deconstruction described by (1990a) include cognitive immediacy, procedure orientation, passivity and impulsivity, close-mindedness, inconsistencies, disinhibition, lack of emotion, and cognitive vulnerability. These characteristics of cognitive deconstruction had not yet been assessed simultaneously or through the use of a self-report questionnaire, so the aim of this thesis was to develop a reliable and valid measure of cognitive deconstruction that allows for the measurement of the deconstructed state and further empirical evaluation of the theory (Baumeister, 1990a). To achieve the above aim four studies were undertaken. The first study constructed and assessed the 120 item Cognitive Deconstruction Questionnaire (CDQ-120). Following the construction of the CDQ-120, this scale in conjunction with a measure of social isolation was administered to 50 males and 188 females. An exploratory factor analysis resulted in a six-factor structure accounting for a total of 74.71% of explained variance. These six factors, following appropriate relabeling, were Cognitive Vulnerability, Time Perception, Close-Mindedness, Emotion, Changeability, and Immediacy. A total of 18 items remained on the measure following factor analysis and subsequent item reduction. The modified measure, referred to as the CDQ-18, demonstrated respectable internal consistency (a = .72) and known-groups validity. Study two confirmed the factor structure and internal properties of the revised CDQ-18. Participants involved were 110 males and 197 females. Confirmatory factor analysis of the CDQ-18 revealed that the Immediacy Factor did not fit the model. It was subsequently removed resulting in a 15-item five factor scale titled the CDQ-15. The CDQ-15 was the final version of the questionnaire and demonstrated respectable reliability (a = 77). Known groups validity was found and some factors displayed preliminary convergent validity. Study three attempted to validate the CDQ-15 in an experimental setting, implementing a modified replication of an experimental manipulation (see Twenge, Catanese, and Baumeister, 2002). Participants, 13 men and 52 women, completed the CDQ-15 under the deception of being accepted or rejected by their peers. Contrary to prediction, the CDQ-15 was unable to differentiate between participants in the exclusion condition and participants in the accepted condition, even upon removing the potential influence of prior high levels of social connectedness. The final study, involving 196 men and 150 women, found adequate criterionrelated validity between the CDQ-15 and variables theoretically proposed to be highly associated to cognitive deconstruction, namely personal agency, meaning in life, and selfawareness. The CDQ-15 also identified higher levels of cognitive deconstruction in participants who reported both greater exposure to exclusionary events and long-term feelings of social exclusion. The findings from this thesis suggest that the CDQ-15 is a reliable measure of cognitive deconstruction. Furthermore, it was found that this measure demonstrates content validity, construct validity, known-groups validity, and criterion related validity. Although requiring further psychometric evaluation, the CDQ-15 is able to identify characteristics of cognitive deconstruction in people who experience social exclusion and provides further support for the theory of cognitive deconstruction (Baumeister, 1990a).
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