Effects of enhanced psychological test feedback on treatment outcome: Therapeutic implications of the Barnum effect

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Abstract

The Barnum-effect literature has consistently shown that the recipients of diagnostic feedback tend to accept such feedback. The present study sought to expand the potential impact of this phenomenon by ascertaining whether diagnostic feedback not only may be accepted, but also may have a positive influence on treatment outcome. 48 snake-fearful university females initially took psychological tests (Snake Questionnaire and the Behavioral Avoidance Test) and were then randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions: (a) a no-treatment control group, (b) a treatment-only group, and (c) an enhanced-personality-feedback-with-treatment group. Two manipulation check items indicated that the enhanced-personality-feedback manipulation was successful. As hypothesized, the greatest therapeutic improvement, as measured by change in pre- to posttest self-report and behavioral measures, resulted for the enhanced-personality-feedback-with-treatment group as compared to the treatment-only group; in turn, the treatment-only group improved significantly more than the no-treatment control group. Implications are drawn for the clinical setting, and the potential importance of the person's expectations that he/she is the source of positive therapeutic change is discussed. (30 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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