New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Clinical Psychological Science:

The Impact of Affective Context on Autobiographical Recollection in Depression  

Caitlin Hitchcock, Ann-Marie J. Golden, Aliza Werner-Seidler, Willem Kuyken, and Tim Dalgleish

Context influences the autobiographical memories people retrieve in a given situation, sometimes eliciting memories that are unwanted. Research suggests that people with depression may have more difficulty overriding context in such situations. The authors devised a new task to investigate this phenomenon, asking individuals with varying degrees of clinical depression to retrieve negative autobiographical memories in response to cue words that were positive (e.g., cheer) or negative (e.g., misery). Although they were directed to retrieve negative memories, participants who had more severe symptoms retrieved more positive memories in response to the positive cues compared with those who had less severe symptoms. The findings suggest that depression may have diminished participants’ ability to override the positive contextual cues. A similar study with participants from a community sample showed that lower working memory capacity was also associated with the retrieval of more positive memories in response to positive cue words. The authors conclude that executive control underlies the ability to override context in memory retrieval, and they discuss how cognitive training might help reduce depressed individuals’ susceptibility to context.

Emotion Regulation Predicts Everyday Emotion Experience and Social Function in Schizophrenia  

Erin K. Moran, Adam J. Culbreth, and Deanna M. Barch

Which emotion-regulation strategies do people with schizophrenia employ and how do these strategies relate to daily functioning? Using ecological momentary assessment, the authors measured the emotional experiences and social interactions of individuals with schizophrenia over a 7-day period. Each day, participants received four daytime cell-phone prompts asking them to report their momentary experiences of both positive and negative emotions (i.e., happy, calm, sad, and anxious); a nighttime prompt asked about their social interactions and daily social interest. After 7 days, participants completed a questionnaire that assessed the degree to which they used cognitive reappraisal and suppression as emotion-regulation strategies; the questionnaire also measured their ability to savor positive emotions. The data showed that greater use of cognitive reappraisal was associated with more positive emotions in daily life and that savoring of emotional experiences was associated with more positive emotions, greater social interactions and interest, and decreased negative emotions. In contrast, greater suppression was associated with greater negative emotion, decreased social interaction and interest, and decreased positive emotions. The authors conclude that individual differences in how individuals with schizophrenia use emotion-regulation strategies may affect everyday social and emotional experiences.

Gaze Following Is Related to the Broader Autism Phenotype in a Sex-Specific Way: Building the Case for Distinct Male and Female Autism Phenotypes  

Elisabeth M. Whyte and K. Suzanne Scherf

Autism is less likely to be diagnosed in females than in males, resulting in insufficient data on potential sex differences in the autism phenotype. This study investigated whether sex differences might emerge in eye-gaze processing, thought to be a core deficit in autism. Using an “extreme subjects” design, the authors recruited a nonclinical sample of adult men and women who exhibited either high or low levels of autistic-like traits (ALTs). The participants viewed a series of images showing a person among multiple objects – after each image, they indicated what the person was looking at by choosing one of four options (i.e., a target object, a plausible nontarget object, or one of two implausible nontarget objects). Men who had high levels of ALTs showed poorer eye-gaze following than both men with low ALTs and women with high ALTs. Women’s performance on the eye-gaze task did not vary according to ALTs. The authors suggest that abnormal eye-gaze processing may be part of the broader male autism phenotype but not the female autism phenotype.

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