Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Dr. David J. A. Dozois


Cognitive theories of depression have, for years, postulated the causal role of

attentional biases in depression. The research that has investigated this relationship, however, has been entirely correlational. With the advent of cognitive bias modification techniques (Mathews & MacLeod, 2002) it is now possible to modify attentional bias experimentally. This study explored potential ethical implications o f negative attentional training and aimed to demonstrate that attentional biases are trainable and causally linked to changes in depression characteristics (self-esteem and dysfunctional attitudes). The first study

demonstrated that the results o f negative attentional training (using a modified dot- probe task) are not likely to last longer than 24 hours after a single session of training. In the second study, participants completed negative attentional training and were administered a stress induction task. The results provide support both


for cognitive models o f depression and the diathesis-stress moc(el. That is, a combination o f negative attentional biases and stress resulted in changés in self­ esteem. The effects on self-esteem were specific to the type o f stimuli used. These findings have important implications for both models o f depression and for the future o f cognitive bias modification research in depression.



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