Emotional Perception Influences How People Cope with Defeat

Feelings of psychological defeat are common symptoms of many mental health problems. In some research, psychological defeat has been linked to the onset of psychosis and other challenges. “Defeat may also contribute to the development and maintenance of schizophrenia,” said Judith Johnson of the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham in the UK and lead author of a recent study on defeat and emotion. “Perceptions of defeat have been associated with the onset and exacerbation of a range of psychiatric conditions and disorders, including depression, anxiety, and suicide,” said Johnson. “Thus, the aim of the current research was to investigate the extent to which the emotion regulation strategy of reappraisal moderated the impact of failure on perceived defeat among both a nonclinical sample and individuals diagnosed with a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, for whom perceived defeat may be particularly important.”

For her study, Johnson focused on the effects of trait reappraisal, the frequency with which people use reappraisal. In the first part of the study, over 100 undergraduate students were evaluated for trait reappraisal as they completed tasks designed to elicit feelings of failure or success. “Specifically it was found that higher frequency of reappraisal was associated with greater increases in sadness and negative affect and greater decreases in calmness after an experience of failure,” said Johnson. In the second part, Johnson examined trait reappraisal in people diagnosed with schizophrenia and found similar results. “Supporting the prediction, it was found that reappraisal amplified the difference in defeat between individuals in the failure and success conditions. Specifically, results suggested that the highest increases in self-reported defeat were among frequent reappraisers who experienced failure,” said Johnson, noting that the findings have significant clinical implications. She added, “Frequent use of reappraisal may confer vulnerability to subjective defeat in response to stressful life events among nonclinical and clinical populations and could be an area for relapse prevention interventions to target.”

Johnson, Judith, Patricia A. Gooding, Alex M. Wood, Peter J. Taylor, and Nicholas Tarrier. “Trait Reappraisal Amplifies Subjective Defeat, Sadness, and Negative Affect in Response to Failure versus Success in Nonclinical and Psychosis Populations.”Journal of Abnormal Psychology 120.4 (2011): 922-34. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Joan Hagood

    Joan Hagood

    December 1st, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    Feelings of defeat can lead to the development of scizoprenic tendencies? Whoa, now that will stop you in your tracks.

  • jimmy


    December 1st, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    when youre mentally defeated then there is not much that can be accomplished. our mind id the single largest source of confidence and willingness to perform or do something and once we are defeated there,I’m not surprised it leads to all sorts of problems.

  • Mandy


    December 2nd, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    There wil always be those who bounce back after a defeat nd others who will sit back and wallow.It is upto the person to choose wat he does.But a lot of this is dictated by his personality nd as this article says by his emotional perception.

    While all this may be true,inspiration can change everythin nd can really turn even a loser into a go-getter!

  • Lelslie


    December 2nd, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    Life is a difficult thing. Thinking abotu living it but always beating up on yourself must be pretty dang miserable. What happened to looking toward the positive instead of always dwelling on the negative? What happened to this being the chosen outlook on life instead of the opposite, which is where so many people seem to end up? Life is really not all that bad people. A lot of it is really all abotu what you make it, and that’s the truth.

  • LUKE


    December 2nd, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    There is nothing more damaging than to have something from the past give you doubts about the future.But sadly thats how it works-past incidents do not let you carry on with confidence and zeal and it often leads to terrible situations wherein youre not able to get back on your feet due to the weight of the past.

  • austin L

    austin L

    December 3rd, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    What happened to get yourself up, shake yourself off, and try again? When did one defeat become the end of the world?

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