Category: Child / Adolescent - Anxiety
Anxiety tends to emerge during adolescence and if left untreated, can carry on throughout adulthood. Investigating adolescent anxiety and methods of preventing and treating it are crucial to tackling this problem. Cognitive theories of anxiety postulate that anxiety can be characterised by drawing negative interpretations from ambiguous material, however, little is known about this relationship and the effect of interpretation bias training on adolescent anxiety. Cognitive bias modification for interpretations (CBM-I) has been found to be effective in modifying interpretation biases and reducing feelings of social and state anxiety in adults. However, leading researchers in the area have called for more basic research to be carried out on the mechanisms underlying its effects. This is the first study to assess the effects of CBM-I on state anxiety and social anxiety in adolescents of 16-17 years (N = 237) and to investigate two possible learning mechanisms underlying the CBM-I effect; the Active Resolution Hypothesis (RH) and the Ambiguity Hypothesis (AH). The RH indicates that the effect of CBM-I is based on the necessity of actively resolving the scenarios’ emotional tone, rather than simply imagining ambiguous scenarios being resolved in an emotionally positive way. The AH postulates that emotional ambiguity is a key factor in the scenarios to train a cognitive decision mechanism to interpret ambiguous stimuli positively. To test RH, a 2 (Condition: Active vs. Passive) X 2 (State Anxiety: Time 1 vs. Time 2) mixed measures ANCOVA revealed that there was a significant interaction, with those in the active condition presenting with less state anxiety following the intervention. Those is the active condition also presented with significantly more positive interpretation bias than those in the passive condition. No support was found for AH under the same analyses. Results indicate that active resolution may have a key role in CBM-I training and that emotional ambiguity may not be as important as once thought. Before this programme can be used clinically, more research needs to be carried out to identify an appropriate control for experimental purposes, to understand more of the key mechanisms underlying the CBM-I process and indeed, interpretation bias itself and to determine how it is we conceptualise and measure interpretation bias.