Biased interpretation in perfectionism and its modification

Jenny Yiend, George Savulich, Anna Coughtrey, Roz Shafran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Perfectionism is a transdiagnostic construct associated with a range of diagnoses, including depression, eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. Treatments that directly target perfectionist cognitions have been shown to successfully reduce associated pathologies. However, the way in which they do this is not clear. We set out to assess the role of one candidate mechanism of action, namely the cognitive process of interpretation of ambiguity. In one experiment we looked for associations between biased interpretation and perfectionism. In a second, we manipulated interpretations, thereby providing a strong test of their aetiological significance. Results from the first experiment confirmed the presence of biased interpretation in perfectionism and demonstrated that these are highly specific to perfection relevant information, rather than reflecting general negativity. The second experiment succeeded in manipulating these perfection relevant interpretations and demonstrated that one consequence of doing so is a change in perfectionist behaviour. Together, these data experimentally demonstrate that biased interpretation of perfection relevant ambiguity contributes to the maintenance of perfectionism, but that it is also possible to reverse this. Clinical implications include the identification of one likely mechanism of therapeutic change within existing treatments, as well as identification of an appropriate evidence-based focus for future treatment development. Targeting underlying functional mechanisms, such as biased interpretation, has the potential to offer transdiagnostic benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-900
Number of pages9
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Attitude
  • Male
  • Female
  • Cognition Disorders


Dive into the research topics of 'Biased interpretation in perfectionism and its modification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this