Biased interpretation in perfectionistic concerns: an experimental investigation

Joel A. Howell, Peter M. McEvoy, Ben Grafton, Colin Macleod, Robert T. Kane, Rebecca A. Anderson, Sarah J. Egan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and objectives: Perfectionism is associated with the development and maintenance of several disorders. Given the importance of perfectionism understanding the biased information processes that underpin it is critical. The present study tested the hypothesis that heightened concern over mistakes subscale scores of the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale are characterized by a tendency to impose emotionally negative interpretations on perfectionism-relevant situations. Method and design: Seventy-six non-clinical, general population participants’ were presented with interpretations of scenarios where a protagonist was described as achieving well above what was required, but fell short of their own high standard. Using a within-subjects, quasi-experimental design, we assessed interpretations of these scenarios by examining the degree to which participants rated test sentences as being likely implications of the original scenarios. Results: A generalized linear mixed model revealed higher concern over mistakes scores were associated with an increased tendency to rate negative target test sentences as being similar to the original perfectionism-relevant scenarios, and a reduced tendency to rate positive target test sentences as being similar to these original scenarios. Conclusions: The findings provide support for the cognitive–behavioral model of perfectionism. These findings support the inclusion of strategies in cognitive–behavioral treatment of perfectionism to reduce interpretation bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-269
Number of pages11
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


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