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18-01-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2016

Cognitive Therapy and Research 4/2016

The Impact of Thought Speed and Variability on Psychological State and Threat Perception: Further Exploration of the Theory of Mental Motion

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 4/2016
Benjamin A. Rosser, Kim A. Wright


Thought speed and variability are purportedly common features of specific psychological states, such as mania and anxiety. The present study explored the independent and combinational influence of these variables upon condition-specific symptoms and affective state, as proposed by Pronin and Jacobs’ (Perspect Psychol Sci, 3:461–485, 2008) theory of mental motion. A general population sample was recruited online (N = 263). Participants completed a thought speed and variability manipulation task, inducing a combination of fast/slow and varied/repetitive thought. Change in mania and anxiety symptoms was assessed through direct self-reported symptom levels and indirect, processing bias assessment (threat interpretation). Results indicated that fast and varied thought independently increased self-reported mania symptoms. Affect was significantly less positive and more negative during slow thought. No change in anxiety symptoms or threat interpretation was found between manipulation conditions. No evidence for the proposed combinational influence of speed and variability was found. Implications and avenues for therapeutic intervention are discussed.

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