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Title: The impact of brief exposure and acceptance interventions on implicit verbal relations in spider-fear
Author: Moghaddam, Nima
Awarding Body: University of Lincoln
Current Institution: University of Lincoln
Date of Award: 2011
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Theories of implicit cognition suggest that behaviour is partly influenced by automatic processes of perception and memory (implicit cognition). An important implication of these theories is that patient self−report may not capture influential processes in psychological disorders (as some of these processes may not be available to self-report). For example, a patient may report that they are no longer anxious (based on their current awareness or willingness to disclose) but may retain implicit/hidden processing biases (e.g., in sensitivity to threat) that leave them vulnerable to relapse in the future. Evidence suggests that, for various psychological disorders, relapse following temporarily successful treatment is not uncommon; the literature around implicit cognition may help to improve understanding of relapse processes. Investigation of implicit cognition has further clinical implications: for enhancing our comprehension of how existing treatment may be effective (e.g., through implicit and/or explicit processes) and of how to develop treatment that influences implicit (in addition to explicit) cognition. Researchers have now developed a number of methods for accessing/measuring implicit processes and these have been shown to predict behaviour in various psychological disorders. An important question arising from the literature around implicit cognition and its potential role in psychopathology is: do existing treatment interventions affect implicit processes? More broadly, how malleable are implicit processes? Can implicit processes be changed in a way that supports desired functioning? Research to date is limited and contradictory in its findings. The present research contributed to knowledge by examining the effects of two treatment−analogue interventions on implicit relational processes. The two interventions (exposure and acceptance/defusion) examined in the present research were based on existing clinical treatments. Spider fear was examined as a test construct in this research. The present research applied an implicit assessment procedure, intervention, and interpretive framework deriving from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (and the underlying Relational Frame Theory). In this way, the present research attempted to draw together theoretically coherent aspects of basic and applied psychology to better understand the constructs of interest. Towards the aim of testing the impact of brief exposure and acceptance interventions on implicit verbal relations in spider-fear (in addition to spider-fear-related self-report and behavioural indices), three specific objectives were identified: 1. To examine effects of exposure and acceptance interventions on implicit (and explicit) measures of spider fear 2. To test the predictive relationship between implicit (and explicit) spider fear and spider-approach behaviour 3. Combining the above, to examine intervention effects on behaviour (directly and/or via fear measures). 48 participants (from a non-clinical sample) were randomly allocated to receive one of the two interventions. Participants completed pre− and post−intervention measures of implicit (and explicit) spider fear and a post−intervention behavioural approach test. Implicit fear incrementally predicted behaviour over explicit fear, replicating previous findings. However, neither intervention appeared to affect implicit fear. Interventions did have differential effects on explicit fear and overt behaviour; notably, defusion facilitated greater approach behaviour than exposure. Discussion centres on clinical and theoretical implications of the research, considering limitations and directions for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: C840 Clinical Psychology