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Behav Res Ther. 1999 Jul;37(7):619-32.

Avoidant personality disorder and implicit schema-congruent information processing bias: a pilot study with a pragmatic inference task.

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Department of Medical, Clinical and Experimental Psychology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


Cognitive theory of personality disorders hypothesizes that each personality disorder is characterized by typical maladaptive schemes and that these schemas direct the processing of information resulting in schema-congruent biases. With regard to the avoidant personality disorder, these hypotheses were put to an initial test in a pilot study, using a self-report questionnaire to asses DSM-III-R personality pathology, a belief questionnaire to assess avoidant schemas and a pragmatic inference task to assess schema-congruent implicit attributional bias. Participants were students (n = 57) who scored high or low on DSM-III-R avoidant personality pathology. As predicted from cognitive theory, DSM-III-R avoidant personality pathology was associated with avoidant beliefs (t(45.1) = 4.68, p < 0.001) and avoidant beliefs were associated with schema-congruent information processing bias (t(55) = 2.17, p = 0.02, one-tailed test). However, DSM-III-R avoidant personality pathology was not associated with schema-congruent information processing bias (t(55) = 0.17, p = 0.43, one-tailed test). In addition to avoidant beliefs, low self-esteem was also related to the information processing bias. Social phobia and general personality pathology, two other control variables, were not. The findings warrant further study using the pragmatic inference task in a clinical group.

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