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Experimentally Modifying Interpretations for Positive and Negative Social Scenarios in Children: A Preliminary Investigation

  • Stephanos P. Vassilopoulos (a1), Nicholas J. Moberly (a2) and Georgia Zisimatou (a1)


Background: Past research suggests that socially anxious individuals display a tendency to interpret ambiguous and clearly valenced information in a threatening way. Interpretation training programs, in which individuals are trained to endorse benign rather than negative interpretations of ambiguous social scenarios, have proven effective for reducing anxiety-related cognitive biases. However, it is not clear whether the same paradigms are effective in modifying interpretation biases for clearly valenced social information. Method: In this experiment, a group of unselected children (aged 10–13 years) was trained to endorse the more positive of two possible interpretations of mildly negative and positive social events. Results: Data revealed that this group (n = 77) showed a decrease in catastrophic interpretations and an increase in neutral interpretations of mildly negative events compared to children in a no-training control group (n = 76). Furthermore, participants in the training condition showed an increase in positive interpretations and a trend for a decrease in discounting interpretations of positive events. However, training did not affect emotional ratings of mildly negative and positive events or trait social anxiety. Conclusions: Notwithstanding certain limitations of this pilot study, we believe that the results are promising with regard to modifying interpretative biases for clearly valenced vignettes, and that further study regarding the effects of training on mood is warranted.


Corresponding author

Reprint requests to Stephanos P. Vassilopoulos, Department of Primary Education, University of Patras, Patras, 26 110, Greece. E-mail:


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Experimentally Modifying Interpretations for Positive and Negative Social Scenarios in Children: A Preliminary Investigation

  • Stephanos P. Vassilopoulos (a1), Nicholas J. Moberly (a2) and Georgia Zisimatou (a1)
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