Adapting Cognitive Bias Modification to Train Healthy Prospection

Namaky, Nauder, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Coan, James, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

Prospection, the mental simulation of future events, has been theoretically linked to physical and mental health. Prior studies have found that prospection is malleable; however, no research to our knowledge has tested whether a scalable intervention explicitly targeting the simulation of positive future outcomes can lead to more generalized positive prospection, and enhance positive outlook and reduce distress. The current study tested a novel, web-based cognitive bias modification for interpretation (CBM-I) program designed to shift prospective bias towards more positive (as opposed to negative) representations of future outcomes among 172 participants selected for having a relatively negative baseline expectancy bias. Results showed that following CBM-I, participants in active training conditions exhibited more positive expectations about the future, and increased self-efficacy and growth mindset. Also, optimism increased and depression and anxiety symptoms decreased following active training, but this also occurred for the control condition. Analyses did not suggest that changes in positive expectations mediated changes in positive outlook outcomes. Results suggest that an online prospection intervention can lead to more positive expectations about future events and improve positive outlook, though open questions remain about what accounts for the training effects.

MA (Master of Arts)
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