Cognitive mechanisms underlying the emotional effects of bias modification

Authors

  • Laura Hoppitt,

    Corresponding author
    1. Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, England
    2. The Open University, UK
    Current affiliation:
    1. University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
    • School of Social Work and Psychology, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK.
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  • Andrew Mathews,

    1. Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, England
    Current affiliation:
    1. University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
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  • Jenny Yiend,

    1. Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, England
    Current affiliation:
    1. Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, England.
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  • Bundy Mackintosh

    1. Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, England
    2. The Open University, UK
    Current affiliation:
    1. University of East Anglia and Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit.
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Abstract

In this study we assessed the cognitive mechanisms underlying the affective consequences of modifying emotional processing biases. During ‘active’ training participants selected either threatening or non-threatening meanings of emotionally ambiguous words, in contrast to ‘passive’ conditions in which participants read unambiguous words with equivalent valenced meanings. Both methods enhanced access to training-congruent primed emotional meanings, as assessed in a lexical decision task, although neither method displayed evidence of an induced interpretive bias as it is usually understood. However, consistent with previous research, the methods differed in their emotional consequences: Active training had greater effects on anxiety while viewing an accident video than did passive exposure. We interpret these results to suggest that both forms of training enhance priming of a valenced category, but only active conditions induce an implicit production rule to generate and/or select emotional meanings, and that it is this latter process that is critical to the modification of emotionality. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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