Decentering and Related Constructs: A Critical Review and Metacognitive Processes Model

Amit Bernstein, Yuval Hadash, Yael Lichtash, Galia Tanay, Kathrine Shepherd, David M. Fresco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The capacity to shift experiential perspective—from within one’s subjective experience onto that experience—is fundamental to being human. Scholars have long theorized that this metacognitive capacity—which we refer to as decentering—may play an important role in mental health. To help illuminate this mental phenomenon and its links to mental health, we critically examine decentering-related constructs and their respective literatures (e.g., self-distanced perspective, cognitive distancing, cognitive defusion). First, we introduce a novel metacognitive processes model of decentering. Specifically, we propose that, to varying degrees, decentering-related constructs reflect a common mental phenomenon subserved by three interrelated metacognitive processes: meta-awareness, disidentification from internal experience, and reduced reactivity to thought content. Second, we examine extant research linking decentering-related constructs and their underlying metacognitive processes to mental health. We conclude by proposing future directions for research that transcends decentering-related constructs in an effort to advance the field’s understanding of this facet of human experience and its role in (mal)adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-617
Number of pages19
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 22 Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Amit Bernstein recognizes the funding support from the Israeli Council for Higher Education Yigal Alon Fellowship, the European Union FP-7 Marie Curie Fellowship International Reintegration Grant, the Israel Science Foundation, the Psychology Beyond Borders Mission Award, the University of Haifa Research Authority Exploratory Grant, and the Rothschild–Caesarea Foundation’s Returning Scientists Project at the University of Haifa.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.


  • (dis)identification
  • (non)reactivity
  • cognitive (de)fusion
  • cognitive distancing
  • decentering
  • meta-awareness
  • metacognition
  • metacognitive awareness
  • mindfulness
  • psychological distance
  • self-as-context
  • self-distanced perspective
  • self-referential processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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