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05-01-2021 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2021 Open Access

Cognitive Therapy and Research 4/2021

Interpretation Bias Across Body Dysmorphic, Social Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorder—A Multilevel, Diffusion Model Account

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 4/2021
Fanny Alexandra Dietel, Anne Möllmann, Paul-Christian Bürkner, Sabine Wilhelm, Ulrike Buhlmann
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10608-020-10180-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Interpretation biases are suggested to be transdiagnostic phenomena, but have rarely been compared across different disorders and current concerns.


We investigated explicit, decision-based, and more implicit, reaction time-based interpretation bias in individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD; N = 29), social anxiety disorder (SAD; N = 36), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; N = 22), and non-clinical controls (NC; N = 32), using an adapted Word Sentence Association Paradigm (WSAP).


Results indicated that interpretation bias occurred transdiagnostically, while content-specific bias patterns varied meaningfully across groups. BDD and SAD shared explicit and, more inconsistently, implicit interpretation biases for appearance-related and social situations. The GAD group exhibited an explicit and implicit negative interpretation bias for general situations, and an additional implicit lack of positive bias. Mechanistic Wiener diffusion model analyses revealed that interpretation bias patterns were mainly driven by speeded information uptake, potentially mirroring disorder-specific associative memory organization.


These findings have important implications for understanding interpretation biases as both etiological and treatment factors.

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