ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 3, Issue 3, 479-495, 2012
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Is "Cootie" in the Eye of the Beholder? An Experimental Attempt to Modify Implicit Associations Tied to Contamination Fears

Jennifer S. Green and Bethany A. Teachman
University of Virginia

Volume 3, Issue 3, 2012, Pages 479-495

To examine the causal link between implicit associations and fear reduction, a conditioning paradigm was used in an attempt to modify contamination-related implicit associations for individuals high in contamination fear. Individuals (N = 81) were assigned to a Positive, Neutral, or No Training condition. In the Positive training condition, individuals clicked on images of potential contaminants that were followed by images of the individual's smiling face or by an approach-related word. Positive training was hypothesized to result in decreased behavioral avoidance and emotional vulnerability ratings during subsequent behavioral avoidance tasks. In the Neutral training control condition, the images of potential contaminants were followed by an equal mix of the individual's smiling, disgusted, and fearful faces or an avoidance-related word. The No Training condition served as an additional control group. Contrary to expectations, training did not shift implicit associations, nor did it affect avoidance or emotional vulnerability ratings. These results raise questions about the most appropriate form and dosage of training for this population - we conclude with suggestions for researchers to learn from these null findings when developing new training programs.

Table of Contents
 Overview of Current Study
  Baseline sample characteristics and contamination concerns.
  Training of implicit associations.
  Post-training measures.
 Data Scoring and Reduction
 Sample Characteristics and Comparison of Groups at Baseline
 Object Choice and Ratings
 Effects of Training
  Implicit associations.
  Subsequent emotional vulnerability: Avoidance on BATs.
  Subsequent emotional vulnerability: Affect during BATs.
 Post-training Self-reported Contamination Concerns and Associated Symptoms
 Lack of Change in Implicit Associations
 Lack of Change on Emotional Vulnerability and Contamination Symptoms
 Limitations and Conclusions

Correspondence to
Jennifer Green, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400.

Implicit associations, Information processing, Contamination fear

Received 11 Nov 2011; Revised 8 Feb 2012; Accepted 8 Mar 2012; In Press 1 Jul 2012

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