Investigating and Developing a Novel Implicit Measurement of Self-Esteem Open Access

Teer, Drew (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/r207tp43x?locale=en
Published

Abstract

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a major public health risk and its frontline treatments are only effective in half of patients or less. Depression, like most psychological disorders, is characterized by symptoms that can only be measured by patient self-report as opposed to observable, objective signs. Several symptoms critical to the construct of MDD are: suicidal thoughts, depressed mood and feelings of worthlessness. One obstacle in the development of effective treatments of depression arises from reliance on self-report measurements of these symptoms. Both demand characteristics and the inability for patients to aggregate information accurately for these symptoms may make self-reports not wholly meaningful. In particular, growing evidence suggests that self-perception and self-esteem may be difficult constructs to assess using common self-report measures alone. Implicit measurements have been developed in order to bypass some of the heuristics and biases involved in retrospective self-report, but, overall, have only been mildly successful in doing so. Tasks like the Implicit Association Task (IAT) have helped to address these limitations, but the neural circuitry involved in IAT tasks is unknown. In contrast, the neural mechanisms of fear conditioning are very well characterized. The three studies herein attempt to take advantage of well-characterized conditioning paradigms to test the feasibility of fear conditioning and extinction to self-related imagery as an objective biomarker of self-esteem. Participants completed self-report measures related to self-esteem, self-compassion, depression and anxiety. They also had their photo taken at the beginning of the study. Three photographs served as conditioned stimuli (CS), one of which was the photograph of the participant (CS-Self). The CS-Self and another photograph (CS+) were always paired with the unconditioned stimulus (UCS). A third (CS-) was never paired with the UCS. The UCS was a loud unpleasant noise. Pupil dilation served as the unconditioned response (UCR), which is a well-validated metric for autonomic arousal. The results from Study 1 indicated that participants responded the same to the CS+ and the CS-, which indicated that they did not acquire a conditioned response. The results from Studies 2 and 3 demonstrate the feasibility of using self-related imagery as the conditioned stimulus in a fear-conditioning paradigm when the stimuli are presented on a luminance-matched gray background and are not preceded by a fixation cross. Furthermore, the results of Study 3 may indicate that self-compassion could affect the fear acquisition learning. These preliminary findings support the potential for this paradigm to be used as an objective measure of self-esteem.

Table of Contents

Introduction...........................................................1

Background and Introduction...........................1

Overview of Current Studies...........................12

Methods...............................................................12

Self-Report Questionnaires.............................14

Stimuli.........................................................14

Eye-tracking.................................................15

Habituation..................................................15

Acquisition...................................................15

Extinction.....................................................15

Positively-Valenced Counter-Conditioning.....15

Debriefing....................................................16

Data Processing............................................16

Study Design........................................................17

Study 1.......................................................17

Study 2.......................................................18

Study 3.......................................................18

Results................................................................18

Study 1.......................................................18

Study 2.......................................................20

Study 3.......................................................21

Discussion............................................................26

Limitations...................................................28

Future Directions..........................................29

References...........................................................31

Figures................................................................42

Figure 1.......................................................42

Figure 2.......................................................43

Figure 3.......................................................43

Figure 4.......................................................44

Figure 5.......................................................44

Figure 6.......................................................45

Figure 7.......................................................45

Figure 8.......................................................46

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
School
Department
Degree
Submission
Language
  • English
Research field
Keyword
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files