In the blink of an eye : investigating depression-linked interpretive biases

Clair Lawson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated] Cognitive theorists commonly have proposed that depression is characterised by an increased tendency to impose negative interpretations on ambiguous information and often contend that this bias may play a causal role in the development and maintenance of clinical dysfunction (e.g., Beck, 1967b). Empirical research examining the hypothesis that depression is associated with such a negative interpretive bias has yielded inconsistent findings and has frequently been subject to methodological shortcomings. The first goal of this present research was to develop a new experimental technique capable of assessing the interpretations imposed on ambiguous information, in a manner that does not suffer from the methodological limitations that have hampered previous investigations. The second goal was to employ this technique to appropriately address the hypothesis that elevated depression is associated with a negative interpretive bias. The new experimental approach developed and validated within this research program utilises the blink reflex as an index of the valence of interpretations imposed on ambiguous stimuli. Psychophysiological researchers have established that the magnitude of the blink reflex is augmented when blink reflexes are elicited during the processing of negative rather than neutral information (e.g., Bradley, Cuthbert, & Lang, 1990). Consequently, by extension, it follows that the relative magnitudes of the blink reflex may serve to reveal the emotional valence of interpretations imposed on ambiguous stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Western Australia
Publication statusUnpublished - 2002

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