Klinische Psychologie




Cognitive Biases and Cognitive Bias Modification Across Different Types of Psychopathology


Barbara Cludius, Keisuke Takano, Charlotte E. Wittekind


Cognitive biases play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of numerous mental disorders including substance dependence, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anxiety. Biases can manifest in attention, memory, association, interpretation, and behavioral tendencies. According to dual process models, cognitive biases may not or only partially be available to consciousness, may be automatic and uncontrollable. Different experimental paradigms have been modified in order to assess these cognitive biases implicitly. Amongst others, paradigms include the implicit association test, the approach-avoidance task, the dot-probe task, and the visual search task.

Due to the ascribed dominant role in different disorders, the experimental paradigms, originally intended to assess the cognitive biases, have also been applied as trainings in order to attenuate the targeted cognitive bias. These Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) procedures are typically administered as an add-on to psychotherapeutic interventions, but also as stand-alone- interventions in different disorders. Studies on CBM, especially regarding approach-avoidance tendencies and interpretation bias modification, have revealed promising results.

Our group is currently conducting a series of studies using behavioral measures to assess cognitive biases on the basis of response time and accuracy and to modify cognitive biases Studies include (a) the assessment of latent aggression and perfectionism in obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression using implicit association tests, (b) parameterization of attention bias in the dot-probe task, (c) the assessment of different cognitive biases in PTSD, and (d) the investigation of the efficacy and working mechanisms of CBM.

Related publications from our group

  • Cludius, B., Wenzlaff, F., Briken, P., & Wittekind, C. E. (in press). Attentional Biases of Vigilance and Maintenance in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: An Eye-Tracking Study. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.
  • Iijima, Y.*, Takano, K.,* & Tanno, Y. (in press). Attentional bias and its association with anxious mood dynamics. Emotion. * co-first author
  • Cludius, B., Külz, A.K., Landmann, S., Moritz, S., Wittekind, C.E. (2017). Implicit Approach and Avoidance in Patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(6), 761-773.
  • Cludius, B., Schmidt, A.F., Moritz, S., Banse, R., & Jelinek, L. (2017). Implicit aggressiveness in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder as assessed by an Implicit Association Test. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 55, 106-112.
  • Weil, R., Feist, A., Moritz, S. & Wittekind, C. E. (2017). Approaching contamination-related stimuli with an implicit Approach-Avoidance Task: Can it reduce OCD symptoms? An online pilot study. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 57, 180-188.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Jelinek, L., Kleim, B., Muhtz, C., Moritz, S. & Berna, F. (2017). Age effect on autobiographical memory specificity: A study on autobiographical memory specificity in elderly survivors of childhood trauma. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 247-253.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Muhtz, C., Moritz, S. & Jelinek, L. (2017). Investigation of implicit avoidance of displacement-related stimuli in offspring of trauma exposed, forcibly-displaced individuals. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 47, 21-28.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Muhtz, C., Moritz, S. & Jelinek, L. (2017). Performance in a blocked versus randomized emotional Stroop task in an aged, early traumatized group with and without posttraumatic stress symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54, 35-43.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Jelinek, L., Moritz, S., Muhtz, C. & Berna, F. (2016). Autobiographical memory in adult offspring of traumatized parents with and without posttraumatic stress symptoms. Psychiatry Research, 242, 311-314.
  • Nishiguchi, Y., Takano, K., & Tanno, Y. (2015). Explicitly guided attentional bias modification promotes attentional disengagement from negative stimuli. Emotion, 15, 731-741.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Behmer, F., Muhtz, C., Fritzsche, A., Moritz, S. & Jelinek, L. (2015). Investigation of automatic avoidance in displaced individuals with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychiatry Research, 228, 887-893.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Feist, A., Schneider, B. C., Moritz, S. & Fritzsche, A. (2015). The Approach-Avoidance Task as a self-help intervention in cigarette smoking: A pilot study. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 46, 115-120.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Muhtz, C., Jelinek, L. & Moritz, S. (2015). Depression, not PTSD, is associated with attentional biases for emotional visual cues in early traumatized individuals with PTSD. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1474.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Terfehr, K., Otte, C., Jelinek, L., Hinkelmann, K. & Moritz, S. (2014). Mood-congruent memory in depression - the influence of personal relevance and emotional context. Psychiatry Research, 215, 606-613.
  • Wittekind, C. E., Jelinek, L., Kellner, M., Moritz, S. & Muhtz, C. (2010). Intergenerational transmission of biased information processing in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following displacement after World War II. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 953-957.