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Title:Implicit abandonment distress
Author(s):Thomas, Joel G
Director of Research:Dolcos, Florin; Heller, Wendy
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Berenbaum, Howard
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hund, Anita; Bost, Kelly
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):relational schema
unconscious emotion
borderline personality disorder
Abstract:Although the cognitive revolution has brought mental processes (including implicit processes) back into psychological science, psychodynamic theory continues to be criticized as adhering to models of psychopathology that cannot lead to testable predictions and knowledge accumulation (Hoffart & Johnson, 2017). According to these critics, in a dynamic perspective, observable indicators of distress and the hypothetical internal mechanism (or “latent entity”) presumed to cause these symptoms are defined in such a way that they cannot be disentangled from each other. The current research aimed to address this issue by conceptualizing the internal mechanism as a relational schema. Focusing on a relational schema of abandonment, it presents an account of a memory mechanism that can be measured independently of its behavioral manifestations (i.e., symptoms of distress). In Study 1, an implicit memory script measure, psychophysiological data, and video capture of behavioral response were used to test the causal relationship between schema activation and symptoms of distress. In Study 2, the actual components of the schema were investigated through a Stroop task that aimed to elucidate how self-other representations of abandonment are connected in memory. The implicit memory script measure was found to be a better predictor of implicit emotional arousal than any explicit schema measure. By contrast, the explicit schema measures were better predictors of observed behavioral responses. Both kinds of schema measures were associated with significant differences in participant reactions to a non-rejection stimulus rather than a rejection stimulus, and the representational content associated with abandonment distress did not appear to be organized in terms of discrete self-other meaning elements. Overall, the findings suggest that situations in which the meaning of a relational event is open to interpretation may be highly relevant to how schemas work.
Issue Date:2019-12-02
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Joel Thomas
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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