Reducing probability overestimation of threatening events: An Italian study on the efficacy of cognitive techniques in non-clinical subjects

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Amelia Gangemi, Andrea Gragnani, Margherita Dahò, Carlo Buonanno (2019): Reducing probability overestimation of threatening events: An Italian study on the efficacy of cognitive techniques in non-clinical subjects. In: Clinica, 16 (3), pp. 149-155, 2019.

Abstract

Objectives: Our study was aimed at evaluating the efficacy and stability of the “Pie Technique”, “Cumulative Probability” and “Inverted Pyramid”, cognitive techniques applied in a clinical context to reduce overestimation of the probability of threatening events.
Method: 319 healthy participants were randomly assigned to one of 8 groups. Groups differed on the level of trait anxiety (high vs. low), and on the cognitive techniques they were to receive (Pie Technique, Cumulative Probability, Inverted Pyramid, Control task). All groups were exposed to an intervention aimed at reassigning the initial probability estimate.
Results: In both high and low trait anxiety individuals, all the techniques successfully produced a statistically significant reduction in the estimation of the perceived probability, while no significant outcome was found in the control task group. This effect was significantly maintained at a 4 week follow up.
Conclusions: Our study shows that the Pie Technique, the Cumulative Probability and the Inverted Pyramid reduce the estimation of the perceived probability of negative events occurring in both high and low trait anxiety individuals. This effect was considerably maintained at a 4 week follow up. The reduction should mainly be attributed to the technique’s power in contrasting the cognitive mechanism of hyper-focalization. The present study takes into account only general threatening events, and not threats specifically related to the different disorders. Moreover, it demonstrates that all the techniques are useful to reduce danger overestimation but in a group of non-clinical individuals. We can’t thus generalize our results to anxious patients.

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