Evidence For The Cognitive Model

The predictions of the cognitive model have been investigated in a variety of research areas including information processing, assessment of emotions and change in emotions, coping behaviours, treatment process and outcome, and developmental psychopathology. Researchers have tended to focus on a set of very specific predictions the model makes and to develop a paradigm to test those ideas. Conclusions about the cognitive model's integrity, therefore, rely on examination and review of numerous studies of specific predictions, which can be assembled into similar themes in order to draw inferences about the overall value of the model.

Other reviewers have used several organizing principles to assemble their review of the literature. For instance, the first comprehensive review of the area by Haaga and colleagues (1991) specified nine specific hypotheses that could be derived from the cognitive model. Similarly, Clark et al. (1999) derived nine hypotheses from the cognitive model, although these nine hypotheses differed considerably from the nine hypotheses created by Haaga and colleagues. The approach of listing very narrow hypotheses has the benefit of being straightforward, especially when the task at hand is the review of studies numbering in the hundreds. Our approach was to use many of these hypotheses as a point of departure, but we also use another level of organization that is partly derived from the cognitive conceptualization of clinical disorders (see J.S. Beck, 1995). Our purpose in using this different approach is to offer a somewhat simpler but still meaningful heuristic to help the reader organize the large amount of information and number of studies. The questions we pose concern core predictions of the model of psychopathology and are relatively less focused on treatment issues, such as the efficacy of cognitive therapy or mechanisms of action. The following questions will guide our examination of the evidence for cognitive models:

(1) What is the evidence regarding the existence of negative distortions in the thoughts of depressed individuals?

(2) Are these cognitive distortions related to environmental stimuli, and do these distortions have an impact on emotion and behaviour?

(3) What is the evidence that there are different levels of cognition, and that the presence of the different types of cognitions is important to the experience of depression?

(4) What is the evidence that early life experiences influence the development of negative cognitive structures?

For each question, we will review the weight of evidence and describe seminal studies in that area. We will also describe any issues that remain unresolved within each of those areas.

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