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Finn, M.T. Smith, C.L. McKernan, L.C. Nash, M.R. (2019). Moving and Reflective Functioning under Stress. Psychodyn. Psych., 47(2):197-214.

(2019). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 47(2):197-214

Moving and Reflective Functioning under Stress

Michael T. M. Finn, Ph.D., Connor L. Smith, M.A., Lindsey C. McKernan, Ph.D. and Michael R. Nash, Ph.D.

According to mentalization theory, reflective functioning is a core feature of healthy affect regulation which involves interactions among implicit and explicit processes across multiple systems of the individual in relation with others. Mother-infant interactions point to the role of whole body movement as a feature of developing affect regulation, promoting self-organization. Using behavioral imaging technology, we examined the legacy of whole body movement in adults undergoing an interpersonal stress task (Trier Social Stress Test; TSST). Movement was assessed as a multidimensional system over time, allowing for examination of rigid recurrence and self-organized determinism in movement dynamics (Multidimensional Recurrence Quantification Analysis). Reflective functioning was assessed using an automated analysis of transcripts. We found flexible yet self-organized movement uniquely predicted reflective function. Self-reported personality organization, assessed at least one week prior, showed some bivariate relationship with indices of movement dynamics, while self-reported attachment styles did not. Using novel methodology, this study demonstrated the cooccurrence of reflective functioning and specific movement dynamics. The authors suggest theoretical approaches from phenomenology to understand these findings and call for further research.

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