Depression: Inducing A Positive Outlook Using Cognitive Bias Modification
It has been known for some time that individuals suffering from depression have a tendency to interpret ambiguous information in a negative manner.
This negative-bias can help to compound and maintain the depression, for this reason this negative-bias has often been the target of research.
A study recently published in the journal of Cognitive Therapy and Research sought to examine the contribution of a Cognitive Bias Modification-errors intervention for individuals with depression:
CBM-errors is a new form of cognitive bias modification for interpretation, which targets the full range of cognitive errors, as well as interpretation biases
The researchers see the advantage of CMB-errors over other interventions as it targets more areas than previous interventions. (Yiend et al., 2013)
In CBM-errors, training scenarios are used to provide practice in the benign resolution of thinking errors believed by many clinicians.
For example the cognitive error of personalisation, the tendency to relate external to oneself when no evidence for the connection is presented would be tackled
The researchers used a double blind, randomised control trial method in order to establish the usefulness of the intervention.
Participants in the experimental group that received the CBM-error training were presented with 72, three-line scenarios.
Example of CBM-error training:
One sentence at a time that was followed by a positive word fragment, which resolved the ambiguity of the descriptions.
A question forcing positive response (requiring yes/no response) appeared, which was reinforced by providing feedback to question.
The participants in the control condition completed the same procedure but the material presented was unambiguous and emotionally neutral:
e.g. ‘You turn the kettle on and wait for the water to boil. You get a teabag out of the tin, which you put into a mug, and pour the boiling water onto the teabag. Next, you add the m_ _k (milk). Have you made a cup of tea?’.
The study found that those participants who had undertaken the CBM-errors training perceived ambiguous situations more positively compared with the control group.
Our data suggest that a positive cognitive bias can be induced in clinically depressed individuals using a simple computerised intervention.
That is to say that the intervention shows potential for reducing cognitive errors in individuals currently suffering from depression.