The differential effects of solution-focused and problem-focused coaching questions on the affect, attentional control and cognitive flexibility of undergraduate students experiencing study-related stress

Tim Theeboom*, Bianca Beersma, Annelies E M Van Vianen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that Solution-Focused (SF) coaching can help individuals to attain positive outcomes. However, not much is known about the processes through which these positive outcomes are achieved. In two experiments, we subjected undergraduate students to either SF or Problem-Focused (PF) questions about their study-related problems. In Experiment 1, we hypothesized and found that SF questioning (as compared to PF questioning) leads to higher positive affect (H1a) and lower negative affect (H1b). Contrary to our expectations, SF questions did not lead to higher attentional control (H2). In Experiment 2, we aimed to replicate the hypotheses for positive and negative affect and additionally hypothesized that SF questioning leads to higher cognitive flexibility (H3a). The results supported these hypotheses. However, our hypothesis that the differential effects of SF and PF questioning on cognitive flexibility are mediated by positive affect (H3b) was not supported. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-469
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to Furthering Research and Promoting Good Practice
Volume11
Issue number5
Early online date30 Nov 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2016

Keywords

  • affect
  • attentional control
  • coaching questions
  • cognitive flexibility
  • creative problem-solving
  • solution-focused coaching

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