There is an abundance of research into cognitive processing biases in clinical psychology including the potential for applying cognitive bias modification techniques to assess the causal role of biases in maintaining anxiety and depression. Within the health psychology field, there is burgeoning interest in applying these experimental methods to assess potential cognitive biases in relation to physical health conditions and health-related behaviours. Experimental research in these areas could inform theoretical development by enabling measurement of implicit cognitive processes that may underlie unhelpful illness beliefs and help drive health-related behaviours.
However, to date, there has been no systematic approach to adapting existing experimental paradigms for use within physical health research. Many studies fail to report how materials were developed for the population of interest or have used untested materials developed ad hoc. The lack of protocol for developing stimuli specificity has contributed to large heterogeneity in methodologies and findings.
In this article, we emphasize the need for standardized methods for stimuli development and replication in experimental work, particularly as it extends beyond its original anxiety and depression scope to other physical conditions.
We briefly describe the paradigms commonly used to assess cognitive biases in attention and interpretation and then describe the steps involved in comprehensive/robust stimuli development for attention and interpretation paradigms using illustrative examples from two conditions: chronic fatigue syndrome and breast cancer.
This article highlights the value of preforming rigorous stimuli development and provides tools to aid researchers engage in this process. We believe this work is worthwhile to establish a body of high-quality and replicable experimental research within the health
Maximizing potential impact of experimental research into cognitive processes in health psychology: A systematic approach to material development, by Alicia M. Hughes, Rola Gordon, Trudie Chalder, Colette R. Hirsch, Rona Moss-Morris in British Journal of Health Psychology [Preprint September 22, 2016]