Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes


Cognitive Bias Modification for Interpretation in the Real World: Age Matters

Saturday, November 18
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom A, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Cognitive Biases / Distortions | Neurocognitive Therapies | Transdiagnostic
Presentation Type: Symposium

Cognitive Bias Modification targeting interpretation (CBM-I) successfully shifts interpretation bias with positive effects on emotional symptoms and behavior. CBM-I has great potential for dissemination because it targets a transdiagnostic mechanism, can be reliably administered across settings, does not require a clinician, and does not require patients to apply complicated concepts. However, to date, few studies have tested CBM-I’s efficacy in large clinical samples or its effectiveness in real-world settings. Given the low-intensity nature of CBM-I and similar cognitive targets as CBT, it may be ideally suited as an augmentation to CBT.

Consistent with ABCT’s 2017 theme of translating treatments to diverse contexts, the current study tested the effectiveness of CBM-I as an augmentation to a CBT-based partial hospital program. Partial hospital patients (N = 127) were randomly assigned to complete a word-sentence association paradigm (WSAP), which reinforced benign interpretations of ambiguous situations, or a control condition. Patients completed the 10-minute task daily while attending the partial hospital (average number of sessions = 7).

CBM-I was feasible and acceptable (98% completed daily sessions) in a psychiatric hospital setting. Patients reported that it complemented what they learned in CBT and that the repetitive nature of the task helped them form new interpretations in their daily life. Results demonstrated that patients learned the interpretation contingencies in the WSAP task (i.e., increase in benign interpretations and a decrease in negative interpretations). In the total sample, no effects of CBM-I were observed on clinical outcomes. However, when examining a priori moderators, results differed according to the individual’s age. Similar to recent findings for attention bias modification, CBM-I led to greater clinical improvement compared to the control only in younger individuals (<37). We will discuss possible explanations for this age effect, as well as ideas for how to tailor CBM-I for older adults. This brief and simple task may improve outcomes in a high-risk population characterized by suicidality and chronic mental health problems. 

Courtney Beard

Assistant Professor
McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School


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Cognitive Bias Modification for Interpretation in the Real World: Age Matters

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