Reduction of Chronic Stress and Trait Anxiety by Inquiry of Cognitive Appraisals with the Inquiry-Based Stress Reduction (IBSR) Method

Ann Krispenz 1  and Oliver Dickhäuser 2
  • 1 University of Mannheim, , Mannheim, Germany
  • 2 University of Mannheim, , Mannheim, Germany


Background: Chronic stress and anxiety can impair individuals’ health. Appraisal theories assume that stress and anxiety are experienced if individuals appraise a situation as threatening for their well-being. Thus, the modification of cognitive appraisals can be expected to reduce stress and anxiety. A potentially effective method to modify individuals’ appraisals is inquiry-based stress reduction (IBSR; Mitchell & Mitchell, 2003).

Aims: The present study assesses the effects of IBSR on chronic stress and trait anxiety in comparison to a matched control group.

Method: We used a quasi-experimental repeated-measurement design and a non-clinical sample of N = 199. Participants’ chronic stress and anxiety levels were assessed before and three months after a nine-day IBSR training. To account for the consequences of missing randomization, propensity score matching was applied.

Results: As expected, data analyses revealed that in the IBSR training group chronic stress and trait anxiety statistically significantly decreased over the course of three months whereas in the matched control group, the levels of chronic stress and trait anxiety did not statistically significantly change.

Conclusions: IBSR seems to effectively reduce trait anxiety and chronic stress in a non-clinical sample.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Anisman, H. (2015). Stress and Your Health: From Vulnerability to Resilience. Wiley Blackwell: West Sussex.

  • Arnold, M. B. (1960). Emotion and personality: Volume 1 – Psychological aspects. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

  • Blascovich, J. (2008). Challenge and treat. In A. J. Elliot (Ed.), Handbook of approach and avoidance motivation (pp. 431–474). New York: Psychology Press.

  • Briñol, P., McChaslin, M. J., & Petty, R. E. (2012). Self-generated persuasion: Effects of the target and direction of arguments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 925–940. Doi: 10.1037/a0027231

  • Caliendo, M., & Kopeinig, S. (2005). Some practical guidance for the implementation of propensity score matching, No. 1588, IZA Discussion Papers, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

  • Chen, S., & Chaiken, S. (1999). The heuristic-systematic model in its broader context. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual process theories in social psychology (pp. 73–96). New York: Guilford Press.

  • Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  • Ellis, A. (2002). Rational emotive behavior therapy. In M. Hersen & W. Sledge (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Psychotherapy (Volume 2, pp. 483–487). Elsevier Science.

  • Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A.-G. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods, 41(4), 1149–1160. Doi: 10.3758/BRM.41.4.1149

  • Heinrich, C., Maffioli, A., & Vázques, G. (2010). A primer for applying propensity score matching, Inter-American Development Bank.

  • Krispenz, A., & Dickhäuser, O. (2018). Effects of an inquiry-based short intervention on state test anxiety in comparison to alternative coping strategies. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 201. DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00201

  • Laux, L., Glanzmann, P., Schaffner, P., & Spielberger, C. D. (1981). Das State-Trait-Angstinventar [State-trait anxiety inventory]. Göttingen: Beltz Verlag.

  • Lazarus, R. S. (1999). Stress and emotion. New York: Springer.

  • Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

  • Leufke, R., Zilcha-Mano, S., Feld, A., & Lev-ari, S. (2013). Effects of „The Work” meditation on psychopathological symptoms. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 19, 147–151. DOI 10.1089/act.2013.19303

  • Levari, S., Zilcha-Mano, S., Rivo, L., Geva, R., & Ron, I. (2013). A prospective pilot clinical trial of „The Work” meditation technique for survivors of breast cancer. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 6, 487–494. DOI 10.1016/j.eujim.2013.07.003

  • McEwan, B. S. (2008). Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. European Journal of Pharmacology, 583, 174–185. DOI 10.1016/j.ejphar.2007.11.071

  • Mitchell, B. K., & Mitchell, S. (2003). Loving what is: Four questions that can change your life (2nd edition). New York: Three Rivers Press.

  • Moors, A., Ellsworth, P. C., Scherer, K. R., & Frijda, N. H. (2013). Appraisal theories of emotion: State of the art and future development. Emotion Review, 5, 119–124. DOI 10.1177/1754073912468165

  • Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2, 175–220. DOI 10.1037/1089-2680.2.2.175

  • Pekrun, R. (2006). The control-value theory of achievement emotions: Assumptions, corollaries, and implications for educational research and practice. Educational Psychological Review, 18, 315–341. DOI 10.1007/s10648-006-9029-9

  • Scherer, K. R. (1984). On the nature and function of emotions: A component process approach. In K. R. Scherer & P. Ekman (Eds.), Approaches to emotion (pp. 293–317). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  • Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and health: Psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 607–628. DOI 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141

  • Schulz, P., Schlotz, W., & Becker, P. (2004). Trierer Inventar zum chronischen Stress [Trierer inventory of chronic stress]. Göttingen: Hogrefe.

  • Smernoff, E., Mitnik, I., Kolodner, K., & Lev-ari, S. (2015). The effects of „The Work” meditation (Byron Katie) on psychological symptoms and quality of life – A pilot clinical study. Explore, 11, 24–31.

  • Van Rhijn, M. O., Mitnik, I., & Lev-ari, S. (2015). Inquiry-based stress reduction: Another approach for questioning thoughts. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. DOI 10.18103/mra.v0i4.191

  • Wessler, R. L. (2002). Cognitive appraisal therapy. In M. Hersen & W. Sledge (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Psychotherapy (Volume 2, pp. 431–434). Elsevier Science.

  • West, S. G., Cham, H., Thoemmes, F., Renneberg, B., Schulze, J., & Weiler, M. (2014). Propensity scores as a basis for equating groups: Basic principles and application in clinical treatment outcome research. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82, 906–919. DOI 10.1037/a0036387


Journal + Issues

The journal publishes original research in the broad areas of experimental and applied psychology, including cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, as well as health and clinical, educational, and occupational psychology. We encourage research that is at the intersection of psychology’s subdisciplines and offers integrative approach.