People with emotional disorders, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and depression, demonstrate a consistent tendency, or bias, to generate negative interpretations of ambiguous material. This is different from people without emotional disorders who tend, in general, to make positive interpretations of ambiguity. If central components of an emotional disorder have high levels of inherent ambiguity (e.g., concern about the negative perceptions of others in SAD, or worry in GAD), then interpretive bias may have a causal maintaining role, and this has been demonstrated in studies using cognitive bias modification techniques. This research has also shown that interpretation biases combine with other cognitive processes, such as imagery and memory, which could exacerbate distress. Psychological interventions will benefit from effectively targeting negative interpretations, and future experimental research can inform ways to improve facilitation of more benign inferential processing to maximize amelioration of key components of emotional disorders.


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