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Title: Influencing vulnerability to stress through modification of emotional biases
Author: Hoppitt, L. C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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Highly anxious individuals are more likely to perceive the threatening interpretation of emotionally ambiguous events than their low anxious counterparts. The association between interpretative biases and anxiety has lead many researchers to believe that interpretative biases cause or increase vulnerability to anxiety. One way to investigate the causality of this relationship is to train people to interpret ambiguous information in a negative or more positive way and to assess its later impact on anxiety. Previous studies have shown that not only can participants be readily trained in this way but that this also modifies their vulnerability to a subsequent stressful event. This thesis addressed the mechanisms by which training induces a bias and modifies anxiety vulnerability by investigating the effects of training that either encourages or prevents generation of meaning. Generation of meaning refers to the process of encouraging participants to generate negative or neutral/positive meanings of emotionally ambiguous words during training as opposed to merely being repeatedly exposed to one valenced semantic category. The first two experiments suggested that although both generative and non-generative training were equally effective in inducing a bias, generation may be vital for influencing the emotional consequences of training. Experiments Three and Four explored further why generation of meaning was important, but the results were inconclusive. Experiments Five and Six attempted to replicate the initial findings that generation of meaning was important for emotional response by increasing similarity between the training and test contexts. Only Experiment Six, in which a text based training method was used, was successful. Experiment Seven investigated text based training further and attempted to use it to replicate and extend the findings of Experiment One. Again, both generative and non-generative training methods induced a bias but the emotional consequences were not as strong as in Experiment One. This thesis highlights the importance not only of the ability to induce a bias but of the type of cognitive processing involved in the training as this may have profound consequences for influencing vulnerability to anxiety.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available