Research into informationprocessing biases associated with panic

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In recent years, psychologists with an interest in clinical issues have applied the ideas and experimental paradigms of cognitive psychology in an attempt to understand any information-processing biases that might underpin the clinical phenomenology of anxiety and depressive disorders (see Dalgleish & Watts, 1990; Eysenck, 1997; Harvey et al., 2004; Mathews & MacLeod, 2005, for reviews). This experimental approach enables the researcher to side-step a number of the methodological problems involved in the more traditional self-report studies; for example, self-report studies reveal primarily conscious, verbally accessible aspects of mental processes (Lang's verbal data). In addition, self-report studies are subject to the intentions, limitations, and whims of the individual involved (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977). In contrast, information-processing paradigms, at their best, are potentially able to shed some light on the nature of non-conscious, non-verbalisable psychological processing and are also less susceptible to response biases.

Research that has applied information-processing paradigms to the area of emotional order and disorder includes a number of highly innovative and compelling prototypical studies. However, there are also a host of studies which are: minor variations of the original experiments; applications of the paradigms to new participant populations; or poorly thought-out applications of new paradigms. It is way beyond the scope of our ambitions in this book to even begin to review this literature. Instead, we have chosen one or two key studies to illustrate this approach to cognition and emotion. For the case of panic, we have chosen the interpretation paradigm and the interoceptive paradigm. Nevertheless, we should note that panic may be atypical of the anxiety disorders, in that 9/15 studies reviewed by Coles and Heimberg (2002) showed the presence of an explicit memory bias in contrast to anxiety disorders such as GAD and social phobia which may only show weak implicit memory biases (see later).

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