Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 143–160 | Cite as

Refining strategies for research on self-representations in emotional disorders

  • Jeremy D. Safran
  • Zindel V. Segal
  • Cathy Hill
  • Valerie Whiffen


This article examines a number of conceptual and methodological issues relevant to the investigation of self-representations in emotional disorders, and suggests ways to refine this areas's research strategies. We first trace the influence of previous work in personality theory and cognitive sciences on cognitive models of clinical disorders, noting the central role of the schema contruct. Issues such as stimulus generation, subject selection, and the importance of priming cognitive structures before testing for their operation are highlighted as ways to access and capture the complexity of self-construal. In addition, schema conceptualizations and research are examined in light of ecological validity. We argue that schematic structures can be usefully compared to personal narratives which structure interpersonal experience. This view suggests that we move beyond the investigation of the way in which subjects process static stimuli and focus on how subjects process information about dynamic interpersonal events in which they themselves participate. Specific suggestions for research are provided.

Key words

schema self-representation cognition and emotional disorder design issues 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ableson, R. P. (1976). Script processing in attitude formation and decision making. In J. Carroll & J. Payne (Eds.),Cognition and social behavior. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  2. Alba, J. W., & Hasher, L. (1983). Is memory schematic?Psychological Bulletin, 93 207–231.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, R. C., & Pichert, J. (1978). Recall of previously unrecallable information following a shift in perspective.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 17 1–12.Google Scholar
  4. Bartlett, F. (1932).Remembering. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, A. T. (1967).Depression: Clinical experimental and theoretical aspects. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  6. Beck, A. T. (1976).Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Beck, A. T. (1983) Conitive therapy of depression: New perspectives. In P. J. Clayton & J. E. Barrett (Eds.),Treatment of depression: Old controversies and new approaches. New York: Raven Press, pp. 265–290.Google Scholar
  8. Beck, A. T., & Emery, G. (1985).Anxiety disorders and phobias. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Bowlby, J. (1969).Attachment and loss (Vol. 1, Attachment). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Bowlby, J. (1973).Attachment and loss (Vol. II, Separation, anxiety, and anger). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Bowlby, M. (1980).Attachment and loss (Vol. III, Loss: Sadness and depression). London: Hogarth.Google Scholar
  12. Bradley, B., & Mathews, A. (1983). Negative self-schemata in clinical depression.British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 22 173–181.Google Scholar
  13. Bretherton, I. (1985). Attachment theory: Retrospect and prospect.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 209, Vol. 50, Nos. 1–2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Bruner, J. (1986).Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Burgess, I. S., Jones, L. M., Robertson, S. A., Radcliffe, W. N., & Emerson, E. (1981). The degree of control exerted by phobic and non-phobic stimuli over the recognition behavior of phobic and non-phobic subjects.Behavior Research and Therapy, 19 233–243.Google Scholar
  16. Carson, R. C. (1969).Interaction concepts of personality. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  17. Carson, R. C. (1982). Self-fulfilling prophecy, maladaptive behavior, and psychotherapy. In J. C. Anchin & D. J. Kiesler (Eds.),Handbook of interpersonal psychotherapy. New York: Pergamon Press. pp. 64–77.Google Scholar
  18. Chambless, D. L. (1988). Cognitive mechanisms in panic disorder. In S. Rachman & J. D. Maser (Eds.),Panic: Psyhological perspectives. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 205–218.Google Scholar
  19. Chassan, J. B. (1979).Research Design in Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry (2nd ed.). New York: Irvington.Google Scholar
  20. Collins, A. M., & Loftus, E. F. (1975). A spreading activation theory of semantic processing.Psychological Review, 82 407–428.Google Scholar
  21. Davis, H., & Unruh, W. R. (1981). The development of the self-schema in adult depression.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 90 125–133.Google Scholar
  22. Degoratis, L. R. (1977).SCL-90 Administration, scoring and procedure manual—I. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.Google Scholar
  23. Fiske, S. T., & Linville, P. W. (1980). What does the schema concept buy us?Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 6 543–557.Google Scholar
  24. Garfinkel, P. E., & Garner, D. M. (1982).Anorexia nervosa: A multidimensional perspective. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  25. Goldfried, M. R., & Davidson, G. C. (1976).Clinical behavior therapy. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  26. Gotlib, I. M., & Cane, D. B. (1987). Construct accessibility and clinical depression: A longitudinal investigation.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96 199–204.Google Scholar
  27. Guidano, V. F., & Liotti, G. (1983).Cognitive processes and emotional disorders. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  28. Hammen, C., Marks, T., Mayol, A., de Mayo, R. (1985). Depressive self-schemas, life stress, and vulnerability to depression.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 94 308–319.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Hammen, C., Miklowitz, D. J., & Dyck, D. G. (1986). Stability and severity parameters of depressive self-schema responding.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 4 23–45.Google Scholar
  30. Hill, C., & Safran, J. D. (1990).The Interpersonal Schema Questionnaire. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  31. Hubel, D. G., & Wiesel, T. N. (1962). Receptive fields, binocular interaction and functional architecture in the cat's visual cortex.Journal of Physiology, 160 106–154.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Ingram, R. E., & Kendall, P. C. (1987). The cognitive side of anxiety,Cognitive Therapy and Research, 11 523–536.Google Scholar
  33. Kiesler, D. J. (1982). Confronting the client-therapist relationship in psychotherapy. In J. C. Anchin & D. J. Kiesler (Eds.),Handbook of interpersonal psychotherapy. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  34. Kihlstrom, J. F., & Cantor, N. (1984). Mental representations of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.),Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press, pp. 1–47.Google Scholar
  35. Kuiper, N. D., & MacDonald, M. R. (1982). Schematic processing in depression: The self-based consensus bias.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7 469–484.Google Scholar
  36. Leventhal, H. (1984). A perceptual-motor theory of emotion. In L. Berkowitz (ed.),Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 17). New York: Academic Press, pp. 117–182.Google Scholar
  37. Luborsky, L. (1984).Principles of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  38. Magaro, P. A., Johnson, M. H., & Boring, R. (1986). Information processing approaches to the treatment of schizophrenia. In R. E. Ingram (Ed.),Information processing approaches to clinical psychology. New York: Academic Press, pp. 285–305.Google Scholar
  39. Main, M., Kaplan, N., & Cassidy, J. (1985). Security in infancy, childhood, and adulthood: A move to the level of representation.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 209, Vol. 50, 50, Nos. 1–2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Mandler, J. M. (1978). A code in the node: The use of a story schema in retrieval.Discourse Processes, 1 14–35.Google Scholar
  41. Mandler, J. M., & Johnson, N. J. (1977). Rememberance of things passed: Story structure and recall.Cognitive Psychology, 9 111–151.Google Scholar
  42. Markus, H. (1977). Self-schemata and processing information about the self.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35 63–78.Google Scholar
  43. Mathews, A., & MacLeod, C. (1985). Selective processing of threat cues in anxiety states.Behavior Research and Therapy, 23 563–569.Google Scholar
  44. McAdams D. P., & Ochberg, L. (1988). Psychobiography and life narratives (special issue). In D. P. McAdams and R. L. Ochberg (Eds.),Journal of Personality, 56. Google Scholar
  45. Merluzzi, T. V., Rudy, T. E., & Krejci, M. J. (1986). Social skill and anxiety: Information processing perspectives. In R. E. Ingram (Ed.),Information processing approaches to clinical psychology. New York: Academic Press, pp. 107–131.Google Scholar
  46. Millon, T. (1986). A theoretical derivation of pathological personalities. In T. Millon and G. L. Klerman (Eds.),Contemporary directions in psychopathology. New York: The Guildford Press, pp. 639–669.Google Scholar
  47. Neisser, U. (1976).Cognition and reality: Principles and implications of cognitive psychology. San Fancisco: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  48. Neisser, U. (1981). John Dean's memory: A case study.Cognition, 9 1–22.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Nelson, K., & Greundel, J. M. (1981). Generalized event representations: Basic building blocks of cognitive development. In M. E. Lamb and A. L. Brown (Eds.),Advances in developmental psychology, Vol. 1. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  50. Newell, A. & Simon, H. A. (1972).Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  51. Rogers, T. B. (1981). A model of the self as an aspect of the human information processing system. In N. Cantor & J. F. Kihlstrom (Eds.),Personality, cognition and social interaction. Hillsdale: NJ: Laurence Erlbaun Associates, pp. 193–213.Google Scholar
  52. Rogers, T. B., Kuiper, N. A., & Kirker, W. S. (1977). Self-reference and the encoding of personal information.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35 677–688.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Rumelhart, D. E. (1975). Notes on a schema for stories. In D. G. Bobrow & A. Collins, (Eds.),Representation and understanding: Studies in cognitive science. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  54. Rumelhart, D. E. (1977).Introduction to human information processing. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  55. Russell, R. L., & van den Broek, P. (1990). A cognitive/developmental account of story telling in child psychotherapy. In S. R. Shirk (Ed.),Cognitive Development and Child Psychotherapy. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  56. Safran, J. D. (1984a). Assessing the cognitive-interpersonal cycle.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 8 33–348.Google Scholar
  57. Safran, J. D. (1984b). Some implications of Sullivan's interpersonal theory for cognitive therapy. In M. A. Reda & M. J. Mahoney (Eds.),Cognitive psychotherapies: Recent developments in theory, research, and practice. Cambridge: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  58. Safran, J. D. (1986). A critical evaluation of the schema construct in psychotherapy research. Paper presented at the Society for Psychotherapy Research Conference, Boston.Google Scholar
  59. Safran, J. D. (1990a). Towards a refinement of cognitive therapy in light of interpersonal theory: I. Theory, 87–105.Google Scholar
  60. Safran, J. D. (1990b). Towards a refinement of cognitive therapy in light of interpersonal theory: II. Practise, 107–121.Google Scholar
  61. Safran, J. D., Greenberg, L. S., & Rice, L. N. (1988). Integrating psychotherapy research and practice: Modeling the change process.Psychotherapy, 25 1–17.Google Scholar
  62. Safran, J. D., Hill, C., & Ford, C. (1988).A self-report measure of the interpersonal schema. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  63. Safran, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Shaw, B. F., & Vallis, T. M. (1986). Assessment of core cognitive processes in cognitive therapy.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 10 509–526.Google Scholar
  64. Sarbin, T. R. (1986). The narrative as root metaphor for psychology. In T. R. Sarbin (Ed.),Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger, pp. 3–21.Google Scholar
  65. Schafer, R. (1981). Narration in the psychoanalytic dialogue. In W. J. T. Mitchell (Ed.),On Narrative Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 25–49.Google Scholar
  66. Schank, R., & Abelson, R. (1977).Scripts, plans, goals and understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  67. Segal. Z. V. (1988). Appraisal of the self-schema construct in cognitive models of depression.Psychological Bulletin, 102 147–162.Google Scholar
  68. Segal, Z. V., Shaw, B. F., & Vella, D. D. (1989). Life Stress and Depression: A test of the congruency hypothesis for life event content and depressive subtype.Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 21 389–400.Google Scholar
  69. Spence, D. P. (1982).Narrative truth and historical truth: Meaning and interpretation in psychoanalysis. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  70. Stern, D. N. (1985).The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  71. Thorndyke, P. W., & Yekovich, F. R. (1980). A critique of schema-based theories of human story memory.Poetics, 9 23–49.Google Scholar
  72. Toner, B. B., Garfinkel, P. E., Jeejeebhoy, K. N., Scher, H. B., Shulhan, D. E., & Di Gasbarro, I. (1990). Self-Schema in irritable bowel syndrome and depression.Psychosomatic Medicine (in press).Google Scholar
  73. Wachtel. P. L. (1977).Psychoanalysis and behavior therapy. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  74. Weiss, J., Sampson, H., & The Mount Zion Psychotherapy Research Group (1987).The psychoanalytic process: Theory, clinical observation, and empirical research. Google Scholar
  75. Williams, J. M. G., Watts, F. N., Macleod. C., & Mathews, A. (1988).Cognitive psychology and emotional disorders. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  76. Zuroff, D. C., & Mongrain, M. (1987). Dependency and self criticism: Vulnerability factors for depressive affective states.Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96 14–22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy D. Safran
    • 1
  • Zindel V. Segal
    • 1
  • Cathy Hill
    • 2
  • Valerie Whiffen
    • 3
  1. 1.University of TorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of British ColumbiaCanada
  3. 3.University of OttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations