Implicit interpretation biases affect emotional vulnerability: A training study

Tanya B. Tran, Matthias Siemer, Jutta Joormann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Cognitive theories of emotion propose that the interpretation of emotion-eliciting situations crucially shapes affective responses. Implicit or automatic biases in these interpretations may hinder emotion regulation and thereby increase risk for the onset and maintenance of psychological disorders. In this study, participants were randomly assigned to a positive or negative interpretation bias training using ambiguous social scenarios. After the completion of the training, a stress task was administered and changes in positive and negative affect and self-esteem were assessed. The results demonstrate that the interpretation bias training was successful in that participants exhibited a tendency to interpret novel scenarios in accordance with their training condition. Importantly, the positive training condition also had a protective effect on self-esteem. Participants in this condition did not exhibit a decrease in selfesteem after the stress task, whereas participants in the negative condition did. These results demonstrate that implicit cognitive biases can be trained and that this training affects self-esteem. Implications of these findings for research on psychopathology and emotion regulation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-558
Number of pages13
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Cognitive bias modification
  • Emotional vulnerability
  • Interpretation
  • Stress reactivity
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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