Title

Interpretation Bias for Uncertain Threat: A Replication and Extension

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-1-2016

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Background

Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) has been proposed as an important transdiagnostic variable within various anxiety-related disorders. Research has suggested that individuals high in IU may interpret ambiguous information in a more threatening manner, suggesting a negative interpretation bias for uncertain information. However, interpretation biases within IU have not been adequately tested in the literature.

Methods

The current study evaluated negative interpretation biases for uncertain information by directly measuring an individual's interpretations of ambiguous information across two samples. Participants consisted of 76 (Study 1; 72.4% female) and 31 (Study 2; 81% female) undergraduate students.

Results

Results indicated that individuals high in IU interpret ambiguous scenarios as more threatening compared to negative and/or positive scenarios (β = .45, p = .02). In addition, individuals high in IU showed a negative interpretation bias for ambiguous information, but not benign information (Study 1: β = −.40, p < .001; Study 2: β = −.57, p = .002).

Limitations

Future research should attempt to replicate these findings within clinical populations. In addition, future work would benefit from the inclusion of behavioral assessments of IU.

Conclusions

These findings are the first to detect the presence of a negative interpretation bias for uncertain information among individuals high in IU utilizing a task designed to directly measure an individual's interpretation of information. Given the efficacy and low economic burden associated with interpretation bias modification protocols, and the transdiagnostic nature of IU, targeting IU within these protocols could have a tremendous public health impact.

Publication Title

Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry

Volume

51

First Page

35

Last Page

42

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