Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Marcellus M. Merritt

Committee Members

Shawn P. Cahill, Diane Reddy, Ray Fleming, Marty Sapp


Affect, Anxiety, Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular, Depression, Rebt


Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) (Ellis, 1958), educates a client on the relationship between one’s irrational beliefs (IBs) and the dysfunctional emotional/behavioral consequences of maintaining those beliefs such as symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleep dysfunction (Ellis, Gordan, Neenan, & Palmer, 1997), symptoms also commonly correlated with high trait perseverative cognition (PC; Verkuil, Brosschot, de Beurs, & Thayer, 2009). In addition to symptoms of anxiety and depression, high levels of PC, a construct comprised of measures of trait worry and rumination, have been linked to acute cardiovascular (CV) health concerns that overtime when left unmitigated may lead to chronic conditions like hypertension (Ottaviani et al., 2016). Therefore, this study aimed to determine if a brief REBT-based rational disputation exercise was beneficial for those with high PC as evidenced by acute CV, anxiety, and affective recovery to an in-lab worry-recall task. 28 undergraduate students from a midsized urban university were recruited for an in-lab study and randomly assigned to one of two groups; the experimental group utilized a brief rational disputation exercise following worry-recall and the control group sat quietly. Blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), affect, and state anxiety were measured throughout the length of the visit. Those in the experimental group experienced significant decreases in SBP, DBP, and HR when asked to think about their new, rational belief and the potential emotional/behavioral benefits of that new belief compared to their SBP, DBP, and HR following the rational disputation exercise. The experimental group had significantly more positive affect, less negative affect compared to the control group at the end of the study. Both groups recovered in levels of state anxiety at the end of the study compared to baseline/pre-study measures. Implications for these findings may include helping those with risky PC profiles more effectively cope with high worry and rumination via brief rational disputation training.