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Journal of Abnormal Psychology - Vol 126, Iss 4

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Journal of Abnormal Psychology The Journal of Abnormal Psychology publishes articles on basic research and theory in the broad field of abnormal behavior, its determinants, and its correlates. The following general topics fall within its area of major focus: (a) psychopathology—its etiology, development, symptomatology, and course; (b) normal processes in abnormal individuals; (c) pathological or atypical features of the behavior of normal persons; (d) experimental studies, with human or animal subjects, relating to disordered emotional behavior or pathology; (e) sociocultural effects on pathological processes, including the influence of gender and ethnicity; and (f) tests of hypotheses from psychological theories that relate to abnormal behavior.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Death anxiety and its relationship with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
    The studies presented in this article explored the relevance of death fears to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In Study 1, the relationships between death anxiety and a variety of markers of psychopathology were examined in 171 treatment-seeking participants with OCD. Moderate to large correlations between Collett-Lester Fear of Death scale scores, taken at initial assessment, and clinical ratings of OCD severity, number of hospitalizations, number of medications, and total number of lifetime anxiety-related diagnoses identified in structured diagnostic interviews were obtained. Study 2 used the mortality salience (MS) paradigm to examine whether experimentally manipulated death cognitions exacerbate compulsive cleaning behaviors among OCD washers. Treatment-seeking participants with OCD (66 washers and 66 nonwashers) were randomly allocated to either a MS or dental pain priming condition. Following priming, participants completed a series of distraction tasks involving skin conductance recording, before being offered an opportunity to wash conductive gel off their hands. As hypothesized, washers went to greater efforts in cleaning (as measured by washing duration and soap and paper towel use) than nonwashers. Similarly, participants in the MS condition showed greater cleaning than those in the dental pain salience condition. However, these main effects were qualified by significant interactions for both washing duration and soap use. As expected, simple effect contrasts revealed that the effect of MS on cleaning behaviors was significant for washers but not for nonwashers. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Enhancing effects of contingency instructions on fear acquisition and extinction in anxiety disorders.
    Explicit instructions regarding stimulus-threat associations increase acquisition and extinction of fear in healthy participants. The current study aimed to investigate the effect of contingency instructions on fear acquisition and extinction in patients with anxiety disorders. Patients with various anxiety disorders (N = 104) and healthy comparison participants (N = 93) participated in a differential fear conditioning task (within-subjects design). Approximately halfway through the acquisition phase, participants were instructed about the stimulus-threat association, and approximately halfway through the extinction phase, participants were informed that the unconditioned stimulus (US) would no longer be administered. Outcome measures were: fear-potentiated startle, skin conductance, fearfulness ratings, and US expectancy ratings. Patients demonstrated overall increased physiological and subjective fear responses during acquisition and extinction phases, relative to the comparison group. There were no major differences in fear acquisition and extinction between patients with different anxiety disorders. During acquisition, instructions led to increased discrimination of fear responses between a danger cue (conditioned stimulus [CS]+) and safety cue (CS−) in both patients and comparison participants. Moreover, instructions strengthened extinction of fear responses in the patient and comparison group. Patients and healthy comparison participants are better able to discriminate between danger and safety cues when they have been explicitly informed about cues that announce a threat situation. Considering the analogies between fear extinction procedures and exposure therapy, this suggests that specific instructions on stimulus-threat associations during exposure therapy might improve short-term treatment efficacy. The question remains for future studies whether instructions have a positive effect on extinction learning in the longer term. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Default mode functional connectivity is associated with social functioning in schizophrenia.
    Individuals with schizophrenia display notable deficits in social functioning. Research indicates that neural connectivity within the default mode network (DMN) is related to social cognition and social functioning in healthy and clinical populations. However, the association between DMN connectivity, social cognition, and social functioning has not been studied in schizophrenia. For the present study, the authors used resting-state neuroimaging data to evaluate connectivity between the main DMN hubs (i.e., the medial prefrontal cortex [mPFC] and the posterior cingulate cortex-anterior precuneus [PPC]) in individuals with schizophrenia (n = 28) and controls (n = 32). The authors also examined whether DMN connectivity was associated with social functioning via social attainment (measured by the Specific Levels of Functioning Scale) and social competence (measured by the Social Skills Performance Assessment), and if social cognition mediates the association between DMN connectivity and these measures of social functioning. Results revealed that DMN connectivity did not differ between individuals with schizophrenia and controls. However, connectivity between the mPFC and PCC hubs was significantly associated with social competence and social attainment in individuals with schizophrenia but not in controls as reflected by a significant group-by-connectivity interaction. Social cognition did not mediate the association between DMN connectivity and social functioning in individuals with schizophrenia. The findings suggest that fronto-parietal DMN connectivity in particular may be differentially associated with social functioning in schizophrenia and controls. As a result, DMN connectivity may be used as a neuroimaging marker to monitor treatment response or as a potential target for interventions that aim to enhance social functioning in schizophrenia. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A new paradigm to measure probabilistic reasoning and a possible answer to the question why psychosis-prone individuals jump to conclusions.
    Jumping to conclusions (JTC) distinguishes patients with schizophrenia from both healthy and psychiatric controls. JTC is typically assessed using the beads task, which, however, faces a number of limitations as to its interpretability and reliability. The present study set out to validate a new paradigm to assess JTC: the box task. We adopted a psychometric psychosis proneness approach and divided a large population sample into participants who scored high versus low on a scale tapping psychosis-like experiences. Participants performed a variant of the original beads task along with a new JTC task, the box task, with or without time pressure. The box task requires participants to infer which of two ball colors will be more prevalent in a matrix of boxes. The box task and the beads task were significantly correlated at a medium effect size, thus demonstrating criterion validity for the box task. As hypothesized, participants who scored high on psychosis-like experiences showed particularly strong JTC and a decreased decision threshold relative to low scorers, especially in the box task version with time pressure; in contrast, group differences in the beads tasks only achieved trend-wise significance. Mediation analyses showed that fewer draws to decisions were predicted by either a lower decision threshold or by higher initial probability estimates for the dominant item. The study establishes the criterion and construct validity of a new JTC task. Its advantages over the traditional beads task are better comprehensibility and usability; multiple parallel versions can be created thus raising reliability. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Genetic and environmental influences on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM–5) maladaptive personality traits and their connections with normative personality traits.
    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM–5) proposes an alternative model for personality disorders, which includes maladaptive-level personality traits. These traits can be operationalized by the Personality Inventory for the DSM–5 (PID-5). Although there has been extensive research on genetic and environmental influences on normative level personality, the heritability of the DSM–5 traits remains understudied. The present study addresses this gap in the literature by assessing traits indexed by the PID-5 and the International Personality Item Pool NEO (IPIP-NEO) in adult twins (N = 1,812 individuals). Research aims include (a) replicating past findings of the heritability of normative level personality as measured by the IPIP-NEO as a benchmark for studying maladaptive level traits, (b) ascertaining univariate heritability estimates of maladaptive level traits as measured by the PID-5, (c) establishing how much variation in personality pathology can be attributed to the same genetic components affecting variation in normative level personality, and (d) determining residual variance in personality pathology domains after variance attributable to genetic and environmental components of general personality has been removed. Results revealed that PID-5 traits reflect similar levels of heritability to that of IPIP-NEO traits. Further, maladaptive and normative level traits that correlate at the phenotypic level also correlate at the genotypic level, indicating overlapping genetic components contribute to variance in both. Nevertheless, we also found evidence for genetic and environmental components unique to maladaptive level personality traits, not shared with normative level traits. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Borderline personality disorder symptoms and aggression: A within-person process model.
    Theoretical and empirical work suggests that aggression in those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) occurs primarily in the context of emotional reactivity, especially anger and shame, in response to perceived rejection. Using intensive repeated measures, we examined a within-person process model in which perceived rejection predicts increases in aggressive urges and behaviors via increases in negative affect (indirect effect) and in which BPD symptoms exacerbate this process (moderated mediation). Participants were 117 emerging adult women (ages 18–24) with recent histories of aggressive behavior who were recruited from a community-based longitudinal study of at-risk youth. Personality disorder symptoms were assessed by semistructured clinical interview, and aggressive urges, threats, and behaviors were measured in daily life during a 3-week ecological momentary assessment protocol. Multilevel path models revealed that within-person increases in perceived rejection predicted increases in negative affect, especially in women with greater BPD symptoms. In turn, increases in negative affect predicted increased likelihood of aggressive urges or behaviors. Further analysis revealed that BPD symptoms predicted greater anger and shame reactivity to perceived rejection, but not to criticism or insult. Additionally, only anger was associated with increases in aggression after controlling for other negative emotions. Whereas BPD symptoms exacerbated the link between perceived rejection and aggression via increases in negative affect (particularly anger), this process was attenuated in women with greater antisocial personality disorder symptoms. These findings suggest that anger reactivity to perceived rejection is one unique pathway, distinct from antisocial personality disorder, by which BPD symptoms increase risk for aggression. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Increased startle potentiation to unpredictable stressors in alcohol dependence: Possible stress neuroadaptation in humans.
    Stress plays a key role in addiction etiology and relapse. Rodent models posit that following repeated periods of alcohol and other drug intoxication, compensatory allostatic changes occur in the central nervous system (CNS) circuits involved in behavioral and emotional response to stressors. We examine a predicted manifestation of this neuroadaptation in recently abstinent alcohol-dependent humans. Participants completed a translational laboratory task that uses startle potentiation to unpredictable (vs. predictable) stressors implicated in the putative CNS mechanisms that mediate this neuroadaptation. Alcohol-dependent participants displayed significantly greater startle potentiation to unpredictable than predictable stressors relative to nonalcoholic controls. The size of this effect covaried with alcohol-related problems and degree of withdrawal syndrome. This supports the rodent model thesis of a sensitized stress response in abstinent alcoholics. However, this effect could also represent premorbid risk or mark more severe and/or comorbid psychopathology. Regardless, pharmacotherapy and psychological interventions may target unpredictable stressor response to reduce stress-induced relapse. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP): A dimensional alternative to traditional nosologies.
    The reliability and validity of traditional taxonomies are limited by arbitrary boundaries between psychopathology and normality, often unclear boundaries between disorders, frequent disorder co-occurrence, heterogeneity within disorders, and diagnostic instability. These taxonomies went beyond evidence available on the structure of psychopathology and were shaped by a variety of other considerations, which may explain the aforementioned shortcomings. The Hierarchical Taxonomy Of Psychopathology (HiTOP) model has emerged as a research effort to address these problems. It constructs psychopathological syndromes and their components/subtypes based on the observed covariation of symptoms, grouping related symptoms together and thus reducing heterogeneity. It also combines co-occurring syndromes into spectra, thereby mapping out comorbidity. Moreover, it characterizes these phenomena dimensionally, which addresses boundary problems and diagnostic instability. Here, we review the development of the HiTOP and the relevant evidence. The new classification already covers most forms of psychopathology. Dimensional measures have been developed to assess many of the identified components, syndromes, and spectra. Several domains of this model are ready for clinical and research applications. The HiTOP promises to improve research and clinical practice by addressing the aforementioned shortcomings of traditional nosologies. It also provides an effective way to summarize and convey information on risk factors, etiology, pathophysiology, phenomenology, illness course, and treatment response. This can greatly improve the utility of the diagnosis of mental disorders. The new classification remains a work in progress. However, it is developing rapidly and is poised to advance mental health research and care significantly as the relevant science matures. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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