New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Clinical Psychological Science:

Dorthe Berntsen and David C. Rubin

The prevalent view of posttraumatic stress disorder suggests that people have trouble voluntarily recalling autobiographical memories of traumatic events but frequently recall these memories involuntarily. Participants were asked to think about an important event from the past week and rate the memory’s valence and the intensity of the emotion they felt when remembering it. Participants also indicated how often they had voluntarily or involuntarily remembered the event. Although participants were more likely to report positive and intense memories, there was no difference in memory patterns between involuntary and voluntary recall. These findings contradict the idea that emotional arousal at the time of the event reduces voluntary and enhances involuntary recall.

Adversity in Early and Midadolescence Is Associated With Elevated Startle Responses to Safety Cues in Late Adolescence

Kate Wolitzky-Taylor, Suzanne Vrshek-Schallhorn, Allison M. Waters, Susan Mineka, Richard E. Zinbarg, Edward M. Ornitz, Bruce Naliboff, and Michelle G. Craske

Can experiencing early life adversity put people at risk for developing an anxiety disorder? Adolescent participants completed both a Childhood Trauma Inventory and a startle paradigm. During the startle paradigm, participants were cued with words indicating that a startle stimulus in the form of a muscle contraction might occur (Danger: contraction might be given) or that a startle stimulus would not occur (Safe: no contraction will be given). The researchers found that adolescent adversity was associated with larger startle reflexes in safe periods following an aversive stimulus — a behavior seen in those with anxiety disorders. This suggests that experiencing adversity during adolescence may increase a person’s fear responses to safety cues and put them at greater risk for developing anxiety disorder.

Birgit Kleim, Belinda Graham, Sonia Fihosy, Richard Stott, and Anke Ehlers

Past research has shown that people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recall past autobiographical events in a general rather than a specific way. Do people with PTSD also imagine generalized future events? Participants with and without PTSD described imagined future events in response to positive and negative cue words. Those with PTSD generated less detailed descriptions of future events in response to positive cue words than did those without PTSD. No difference was seen in the specificity of imagined events in response to negative cue words. The researchers hypothesize that people with PTSD may get “stuck” in the past trauma and have difficulty maintaining a positive future orientation.

Antonina S. Farmer and Todd B. Kashdan

Affective instability is seen in those with borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder, and bulimia nervosa, but few studies have examined affective instability in those with anxiety disorders. Individuals with and without social anxiety disorder (SAD) described their positive and negative affective experiences and rated their self-esteem during a 2-week period. Those with SAD experienced greater instability in negative affect and self-esteem than did those without SAD. Participants with SAD also had more difficulty improving negative affective states and maintaining positive affective states. This suggests that people with SAD may particularly benefit from learning emotional regulation skills and strategies to prolong positive emotions.

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