The influence of social comparison on cognitive bias modification and emotional vulnerability.
Standage H., Harris J., Fox E.
The Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) paradigm was devised to test predictions that cognitive biases have a causal influence on emotional status. Increasingly, however, researchers are testing the potential clinical applications of CBM. Although generally successful in reducing emotional vulnerability in clinical populations, the impact of CBM interventions has been somewhat variable. The aim of the current experiment was to investigate whether social comparison processing might be an important moderator of CBM. Healthy participants were presented with 80 valenced scenarios devised to induce a positive or negative interpretative bias. Critically, participants answered a series of questions designed to establish whether they assimilated or contrasted themselves with the valenced descriptions. The induction of an interpretation bias that was congruent with the valence of the training scenarios was successful only for participants who tended to assimilate the valenced scenarios, and not for those participants who tended to evaluate themselves against the scenarios. Furthermore, the predicted influence of CBM on emotional outcomes occurred only for those who had an assimilative rather than evaluative orientation toward CBM training material. Of key importance, results indicated that "evaluators" showed increased emotional vulnerability following positive CBM training. This result has both theoretical and clinical implications in suggesting that the success of CBM is dependent upon the way in which participants socially compare themselves with CBM training material.