BAPS Early Career Award
Inference training: a new theory-based form of cognitive bias modification to foster adaptive behavioral choices
Pieter Van Dessel (1)
Recent years have seen a surge in the popularity of interventions that target common distortions in thinking (Cognitive bias modification: CBM). For instance, in alcohol avoidance training, alcohol-dependent patients repeatedly make avoidance responses to alcoholic drinks and approach responses to non-alcoholic drinks to change maladaptive approach tendencies. Although there is some evidence of CBM’s effectiveness as add-on to regular treatment (in alcohol addiction), effects are typically small and recent findings from lab-studies called into question dominant theoretical explanations of CBM effects that draw on associative processes. I present a novel theoretical approach in terms of cognitive inferences, that integrates previous findings and suggests ways to improve CBM into inference training. In this type of training, clients are trained to make adaptive behavioral choices in the context of personally relevant antecedents in light of their consequences for important real-life goals. I discuss preliminary evidence suggesting that inference training might be a useful tool in the treatment of maladaptive behavior.