Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 109 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Julia M Hormes

Committee Members

Drew A Anderson, Betty Lin


emotion regulation, executive functioning, exercise, taekwondo, Tae kwon do, Martial artists, College athletes, Emotions, Executive functions (Neuropsychology), Mindfulness (Psychology), Mind and body

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


Emotion regulation and executive functioning are intricate processes that allow individuals to initiate, inhibit, or modulate emotions and behaviors in service of personally-relevant goals in familiar, novel, and ambiguous contexts. Research has demonstrated that exercise improves emotion regulation and executive functioning. Recently, researchers have started investigating whether mindful exercise – physical exercise that incorporates an inwardly directed, non-judgmental, contemplative focus – explicitly strengthens these capabilities. As a martial art and sport that combines training in body movement and mental focus, taekwondo is a globally popular example of mindful exercise that may benefit affective and cognitive processes. The current study examined whether taekwondo uniquely promotes adaptive emotion regulation and executive functioning by examining differences in self-report questionnaires and behavioral task performance among collegiate taekwondo practitioners (n = 63), non-taekwondo athletes (n = 96), and non-athletes (n = 159). Findings support overall emotion regulation benefits of athletic engagement, as well as specific emotion regulation and executive functioning benefits of taekwondo. Compared to non-athletes, both taekwondo and non-taekwondo athletes endorsed better access to emotion regulation strategies, better emotional clarity, and less recent experience of depression and anxiety symptoms. Moreover, compared to the other two groups, taekwondo athletes performed better on working memory and cognitive flexibility tasks and endorsed greater cognitive flexibility, less use of catastrophizing, and fewer impulse control difficulties. Hence, engagement in taekwondo was related to several benefits beyond that of athletic engagement more broadly. Limitations and future directions are discussed.