An Investigation of Training, Schemas, and False Recall of Diagnostic Features for Mental Disorders

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This study examined whether schemas formed during training (graduate coursework, clinical supervision, etc.) are responsible for the tendency of clinicians to experience higher rates of false recall for clinical case details when compared with novices. Participants in this study were recruited from a general psychology class to limit preexisting knowledge of psychological disorders. Half of the participants were trained to recognize features of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with the purpose of forming a schema for that disorder, whereas the other half were not. Participants’ memories for diagnostic and nondiagnostic details within a hypothetical case vignette were tested using a free recall prompt followed by a yes–no recognition test. Trained participants falsely recognized the diagnostic detail “restlessness” and falsely recalled the diagnostic detail “uncontrollable worry” at a significantly higher rate than controls, suggesting that the training successfully formed a schema for GAD symptoms. Graduate training programs should consider incorporating training about false memories in students’ coursework as one mechanism for mitigating these errors.

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