Do Military Personnel with PTSD have Cognitive Biases Compared to those without PTSD?

Research Paper Title

Cognitive biases in military personnel with and without PTSD: a systematic review.

Background

Some cognitive biases, such as excessive attention to threat, are associated with PTSD.

However, they may be adaptive for military personnel; attending to threat may improve safety for deployed personnel.

Therefore, the aim of this study was to discover the extent to which military personnel with vs. without PTSD differ with respect to specific cognitive biases is currently unclear.

This systematic review aimed to address this question.

Methods

PRISMA guidelines were followed.

Articles were identified using a comprehensive literature search; 21 studies (with 1,977 participants) were reviewed.

Results

All studies were of “moderate” or “strong” quality.

Military personnel with vs. without PTSD used overgeneralised language when describing autobiographical memories and demonstrated impaired performance on a modified Stroop task.

Studies using dot-probe paradigms conceptualised attentional response as a dynamic process, fluctuating between bias towards and away from threat; military personnel with vs. without PTSD demonstrated greater fluctuation.

Studies using visual search tasks concluded that attentional bias in PTSD involves interference (difficulty disengaging from threat) rather than facilitation (enhanced threat detection).

Finally, personnel with vs. without PTSD demonstrated interpretation bias, completing ambiguous sentences with negative rather than neutral endings.

Conclusions

The implications for military populations and recommendations for further research and clinical practice are considered.

Reference

Vyas, K., Murphy, D. & Greenberg, N. (2020) Cognitive biases in military personnel with and without PTSD: a systematic review. Journal of Mental Health (Abingdon, England). 21, pp.1-12. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2020.1766000. Online ahead of print.

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