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03-09-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2019 Open Access

Cognitive Therapy and Research 2/2019

Reducing Aggressive Children’s Hostile Attributions: A Cognitive Bias Modification Procedure

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 2/2019
Wieteke Hiemstra, Bram Orobio De Castro, Sander Thomaes


Children with aggression problems tend to interpret other’s intentions as hostile in ambiguous social situations. Among clinically referred children with aggressive behavior problems, this hostile attribution style may be relatively rigid and difficult to change, due to prevalent histories of aversive social experience and/or personal vulnerability. The present study examined the effectiveness of a cognitive bias modification (CBM) training to reduce hostile interpretations of facial expressions in clinically referred aggressive boys. We conducted two experiments: Both Study 1 (N = 59, Mage = 11.8) and Study 2 (N = 75, Mage = 11.5) showed that the training effectively reduced hostile interpretation of facial expressions. However, we found no generalization to relevant other outcomes, including state anger and aggression (assessed using a multi-method approach), and hostile attribution assessed in a game context. Taken together, this research illustrates the potential of employing the CBM procedure to reduce aggressive boys’ hostile attributions: The procedure is time and cost-efficient, and relatively easily implemented. Despite this potential, the context-dependency and generalization of effects should be better understood before the procedure can be taken to scale in clinical populations.

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