Modifying cognitive errors promotes cognitive well being: A new approach to bias modification

Kathryn J. Lester, Andrew Mathews, Phil S. Davison, Jennifer L. Burgess, Jenny Yiend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) procedures have been used to train individuals to interpret ambiguous information in a negative or benign direction and have provided evidence that negative biases causally contribute to emotional vulnerability.

Method: Here we present the development and validation of a new form of CBM designed to manipulate the cognitive errors known to characterize both depression and anxiety. Our manipulation was designed to modify the biased cognitions identified by Beck's cognitive error categories (e.g. arbitrary inference, overgeneralisation) and typically targeted during therapy.

Results: In a later test of spontaneous inferences, unselected (Experiment 1) and vulnerable participants (Experiment 2) who had generated positive alternatives rather than errors perceived novel hypothetical events, their causes and outcomes in a non-distorted manner. These groups were also less vulnerable to two different types of emotional stressor (video clips; and an imagined social situation). Furthermore participants' interpretation of their own performance on a problem-solving task was improved by the manipulation, despite actual performance showing no significant change.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that Cognitive Error Modification can promote positive inferences, reduce vulnerability to stress and improve self-perceptions of performance. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298 - 308
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


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