Review of: Coy, B., O’Brien, W. H., Tabaczynski, T., Northern, J., & Carels, R. (2011). Associations between evaluation anxiety, cognitive interference and performance on working memory tasks. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(5), 823–832. doi:10.1002/acp.1765

Reviewed by Lauren Lee There is a well-established “robust and reliable” body of research that links poorer performance on cognitive tasks with evaluation anxiety. Cognitive Interference Theory (CIT) proposed by Sarason and associates attempts to explain that association, using the term negative off-task self-dialogue to describe the interference caused by distraction (Sarason, 1984;Sarason, Sarason, & Pierce, 1990, 1995). This line of research is supportive of Beck’s cognitive view of anxiety as caused by a person’s increased likelihood of reacting to a threat, while underestimation their own problem solving abilities, paired with an over estimate of the threat posed. Many studies comparing levels of negative off-task dialogue with evaluation and off-task thoughts support CIT; however their used of correlational methods to compare the groups invites critique as establishing a link between variables without proving directionality of the relationship. Working from Sarason’s theory, Eysenck and Calvo (1992) pursued the impact of negative off-task self-dialogue on working memory and subsequently their performance on cognitive tasks by priming the system used in assessing new information needed for cognitive tasks. Central Executive, an essential component of CIT, has 3 primary functions: inhibition, task switching, and encoding of incoming information. Additionally, it may serve as a relay to other auditory and visual processing systems. Coy et al. (2011) uses the verbal linguistic mentation model to explain the stronger association between verbal memory and negative off-task self-dialogue by interfering with the phonological loop of the working memory system. Due to this overload, the central executive processes will also be impacted downstream. Also proposed is that visual stimuli, because processed separately from verbal information, will be less effected by the negative off-task self-dialogue. Although Beilock et al., (2007) found data supportive of CIT, connecting evaluation anxiety to impaired phonological processing, central executive function, they were not able to establish to what extent the negative off-task dialogue or how much the stereotype threat presented, impacted performance. while no experimental research has evaluated the link between evaluating anxiety and all three functions of working...

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Are Nature-assisted Interventions Cost-effective?

Are Nature-assisted Interventions Cost-effective? By: William C. Young A review of: Währborg, P., Petersson, I. F., & Grahn, P. (2014). Nature-assisted rehabilitation for reactions to severe stress and/or depression in a rehabilitation garden: Long-term follow-up including comparisons with a matched population-based reference cohort. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 46(3), 271-276. Severe stress and depression have become more common and more costly in all populations across the world. Until recently, many of these disorders were going undiagnosed. As the accuracy of diagnosis rises, the accuracy with which we can determine the financial and health-related costs of these disorders also increases. These disorders not only influence the individuals with the disorders but also the businesses or workplaces where they are employed (Gustavsson et al, 2010). Because there is only a marginal effect of most interventions on severe stress and interventions and a high effect of nature assisted interventions, Wahrborg and colleagues (2014) set out to examine if nature-assisted interventions were both therapeutic and cost-effective. Moreover, since there was a small number of studies that had examined the effects of a rehabilitation program versus controls, the study could examine the effect of the intervention in a way that had not been conclusively addressed by prior research. Wahrborg and colleagues (2014) performed a study in an attempt to determine the effect of nature-assisted interventions on those who are dealing with severe stress and depression. Sick leave status and healthcare consumption were used as dependent variables in an attempt to operationalize a monetary effect of the nature-assisted intervention as well as the overall therapeutic effect. A retrospective, between-subjects design with a matched reference group was used which consisted of an experimental group (nature-assisted rehabilitation program group) and a control group from Skane Health Register. A nature-assisted intervention was chosen due to high effect sizes shown in similar studies despite lower sample sizes. The intervention (experimental group: N=103) involved both horticulture therapy and medication. The intervention condition was conducted in a green setting which had been proven to be restorative (Annerstedt...

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Ritualizing As a Coping Strategy

Oct 06, 08 Ritualizing As a Coping Strategy

Posted by in Anxiety, OCD

Ritualizing As a Coping Strategy by Gelman, I. A review of: Boyer, P. & Lienard, P. (2008). Ritual Behavior in Obsessive and Normal Individuals. Moderating Anxiety and Reorganizing the Flow of Action. Psychological Science, (17) 4, 291-294. Checking the door 200 times before bed, cleaning a table in counterclockwise circles, plugging and unplugging the toaster 24 times before leaving the house – these are all behaviors of obsessive-compulsive disorder. These various ritualized behaviors are characterized by compulsions (the person feels they must perform these actions), goal-demotion (no connection between goal and action), redundancy (actions repeated a certain number of times), and rigidity (actions must be accomplished in a certain sequence). In their article, Pascal Boyer and Pierre Lienard, from University of Washington in St. Louis, write that OCD behaviors can be observed in nonclinical populations, especially children and cultural ceremonies. They go on to explain that the behaviors are probably linked to our inherent precaution system, which is necessary to detect potential danger and protect ourselves. In their article, Ritual Behavior in Obsessive and Normal Individuals. Moderating Anxiety and Reorganizing the Flow of Action, published in 2008, Boyer and Lienard explain their theory. They state that intrusive thoughts (and their responses) are not exclusive to OCD. Previous studies show that the pathological aspect of OCD behaviors stems from wrongly appraising threats in the environment and how much control one has over it. If one perceives himself to have little control, he is more likely to ritualize pathologically. Children engage in ritualized behaviors, with their rituals specifically linked to anxiety states, such as fear of strangers and risk of inflicting harm to self or someone else. On the other hand, cultural rituals are centered on collective ritualized behaviors that work because people believe in them, and people believe in them precisely because they are ritualized. Authors site several studies describing the fact that, from an evolutionary perspective, human beings need to be vigilant to ensure their survival. For example, higher attentional load of parents’ preoccupation...

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Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Oct 03, 08 Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Posted by in Anxiety, OCD

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorderby Cohen, G. E. A review of: Abramowitz, J.S., Lackey, G. R., & Wheaton, M. G. (In-press). Obsessive-compulsive symptoms: The contribution of obsessional beliefs and experiential avoidance. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. In their current study, Abramowitz, Lackey and Wheaton seek to compare a new theory for the primary mechanism underlying the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with the currently prevailing model. OCD includes symptoms of unwanted anxiety-evoking thoughts, images, and impulses (obsessions), and urges to perform behavioral or mental acts in an effort to reduce the anxiety felt (compulsions). Prevailing models of OCD state that obsessions result from maladaptive, negative interpretations of normal intrusive thoughts. 90% of the population experience some form of unwanted thought (Rachman & deSilva, 1978) but people with OCD treat these unwanted thoughts as highly significant and threatening, and so they feel these thoughts must be highly controlled. The misinterpretation of these thoughts leads to obsessional anxiety and rituals designed to control or minimize that anxiety. Abramowitz, Lackey and Wheaton sought to determine if another mechanism, known as experiential avoidance (EA) better explain the symptoms and underlying beliefs associated with OCD. EA is characterized by an “unwillingness to endure upsetting emotions, thoughts, memories and other private experiences.” This unwillingness then leads to significant efforts to avoid or escape these experiences, resulting in compulsions (Hayes, Wilson, Gifford, Follette & Stroahl, 1996). In order to explore the relationship between EA and OCD, Abramowitz, et al. recruited a sample of 353 undergraduate students who scored high on a self-report measure of obsessive compulsive symptoms. These undergraduate students then took 4 different self-report measures through an online system and these measures were analyzed to determine the extent to which they evidenced experiential avoidance versus maladaptive cognitions. It was found that participants that scored higher on symptoms of OCD also scored higher on measures of EA. However, it was unable to be determined if EA was specific to obsessive compulsive symptoms or if it is a characteristic of anxiety symptoms in general. Additionally,...

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Increasing benign interpretations

A review of:Beard, C., & Amir, N. (2008). A multi-session interpretation modification program: Changes in interpretation and social anxiety symptoms. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46, 1135-1141.By Jonathon G. Perle Beard and Amir (2008) investigated the interpretation of ambiguous social stimuli as threatening in anxious individuals. Their goal was to use a computerized Interpretation Modification Program (IMP) to train socially anxious individuals to judge ambiguous stimuli as benign instead of threatening. Twenty-seven individuals were randomly assigned to the IMP or a control group condition and completed eight computer sessions over four weeks. Results showed the IMP condition to modify interpretations by providing positive feedback when participants made benign interpretations and negative feedback when the participant made a threat interpretation. Findings illustrate the IMP to successfully decrease threat interpretations, increase benign interpretations, and decrease social anxiety symptoms compared to control conditions. Additionally, changes in benign interpretation mediated IMP’s effect on social anxiety. These findings suggest that interpretation modification may have clinical applications for socially anxious individuals; however more testing is needed to investigate all possible aspects and interpretations of IMP. To cite this review, please use this reference:Perle, J. G. (2008). Increasing benign interpretations, Psychology Alert (1)....

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