Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
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Cognitive theories have, for years, postulated the causal role of attentional biases in depression and low self-esteem. However, this assumption has been based predominantly on correlational findings. With the advent of attentional bias modification techniques (Mathews & MacLeod, 2002), it became possible to modify attentional bias experimentally. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether negative attentional biases are trainable and causally linked to changes in important characteristics of depression, namely self-esteem. Participants completed negative attentional training and a stress induction task. Consistent with the diathesis-stress model, a combination of negative attentional biases and stress resulted in changes in self-esteem, which was used as an indicator of depression. The effects on self-esteem were specific to the type of stimuli used. These findings have important implications for our understanding of self-esteem, cognitive models of depression, and for the future of cognitive bias modification research in self-esteem and depression.
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