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Interpretation bias modification in individuals with PTSD symptoms
Brunn, Nicole Diane
A majority of the population experiences at least one traumatic event in their lifetime and a portion of these individuals will then develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic event, trauma related alterations in arousal, and negative alterations in cognitions and mood. The cognitive model of PTSD suggests that these individuals believe there is a current and serious threat to their safety. Individuals with PTSD have been shown to interpret ambiguous information as negative (i.e., show a negative interpretation bias). This interpretation bias may be partially responsible for the development of PTSD and decreasing this bias using an interpretation bias modification (IBM) task may result in the reduction of PTSD symptoms. The goal in the present study was to use an IBM task called the Word-Sentence Association Paradigm (WSAP) to change participants’ interpretation of ambiguous stimuli from negative to neutral. Participants were 50 undergraduates with elevated PTSD symptoms as indicated by a score of 30 or higher on the PTSD Checklist. Participants were presented with an ambiguous sentence on a computer screen followed by either a neutral word or a negative word and then the participant indicated if the word and sentence were related. In one condition (active training), they received positive feedback (received 3 points) if they stated that the neutral word was related to the sentence and negative feedback (lost 1 point) if they decided that the negative interpretation was related to the sentence. In the second condition (passive training), they did not receive feedback after their response. Finally, in the third condition (random training), they received feedback that the negative word was related to the sentence on 50% of the trials. We hypothesized that IBM would be successful at decreasing participants’ negative interpretation bias in the active training condition compared to the random condition. We found that the active condition successfully changed participants’ interpretation. In addition, we also found evidence that the passive training condition was a more successful training condition than the active training condition. This study shows preliminary evidence for the efficacy of IBM in changing interpretation bias in PTSD.
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2017
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