Appraisals and Responses to Experimental Symptom Analogues in Clinical and Nonclinical Individuals With Psychotic Experiences

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Objective: Cognitive models of psychosis suggest that anomalous experiences alone do not always lead to clinical psychosis, with appraisals and responses to experiences being central to understanding the transition to “need for care”. Methods: The appraisals and response styles of Clinical (C; n = 28) and Nonclinical (NC; n = 34) individuals with psychotic experiences were compared following experimental analogues of thought interference (Cards Task) and auditory hallucinations (Virtual Acoustic Space Paradigm). Results: The groups were matched in terms of their psychotic experiences. As predicted, the C group scored higher than the NC group on maladaptive appraisals following both tasks, rated the experience as more personally significant, and was more likely to incorporate the experimental setup into their ongoing experiences. The C group also appraised the Cards Task as more salient, distressing, and threatening; this group scored higher on maladaptive—and lower on adaptive—response styles, than the NC group on both tasks. Conclusions: The findings are consistent with cognitive models of psychosis, with maladaptive appraisals and response styles characterizing the C group only. Clinical applications of both tasks are suggested to facilitate the identification and modification of maladaptive appraisals.

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