In cognitive models, faulty threat appraisals that are associated with threat cognitions in anxiety are frequently seen as the outcome of logical errors. The looming vulnerability model expands upon such views by emphasizing the role of perceptual and phenomenological distortions in threat estimation. It assumes that anxiety is associated with cognitive-perceptual distortions of time, space, and movement (e.g., space and time compression) that heighten the subjective impression that threats are rapidly approaching, even when they aren’t. The present study was undertaken to develop an easy-to-administer and implement self-report measure to assess such perceptual distortions.
University students (N = 751; 71% female) completed a battery of online questionnaires that included the Looming Vulnerability Distortions Questionnaire (LVDQ) and measures of the looming cognitive style (LCS), cognitive distortions, social desirability, anxiety, worry, intolerance of uncertainty, and depression.
A bifactor ESEM model displayed excellent fit indices and reliability for the LVDQ. Although the results provided strongest support for the use of a general score over specific subscales, they also support the secondary use of some specific scores for some types of distortions. The LVDQ uniquely predicted variance in LCS, anxiety, worry, intolerance of uncertainty, and depression. Moreover, both the LVDQ and LCS also uniquely predicted scores on a face-valid lab-based task, not explained by logical reasoning distortions.
These results support the idea that the LVDQ is a valid measure of cognitive-perceptual distortions associated with anxiety and indicate that it predicts unique variance in anxiety and other emotional distress not explained by a typical measure of logical errors. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.
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We wish to thank Julian Basanovic for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This research was supported by a grant from the Basque Country (Ref. IT1532-22).
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John H. Riskind and Esther Calvete declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Appendix: LVDQ Questionnaire
Appendix: LVDQ Questionnaire
In this questionnaire, we are studying different types of thinking that people have when are anxious or worry about situations. For every type of thinking listed below, there will be three examples–one dealing with social relationships, one dealing with personal achievement (in jobs, school, or career), and one dealing with physical threats. We would like you to do your best to read and understand what each of these types of thinking is like. You will be asked to estimate how often you engage in each type of thinking in the three categories described above (social, achievement, and physical). Please consider each of your answers carefully.
When people see something or someone that is possibly threatening or makes them uncomfortable (e.g., an angry boss, a spider, a stain on their shirt when in public), they sometimes perceive the threat to be physically larger or bigger in size than it is.
Social Situation Example. Clark sees a stain on his shirt when in public and sees the stain as much bigger than it actually is.
Please estimate how often you engage in size distortion when in social situations (like when you’re with friends, partners, family or in public).
Achievement Situation Example. Jack is called into his boss’ office to talk about a recent mistake that he just made. Jack sees his boss is much bigger in size than is true. Please estimate how often you engage in size distortion when in achievement situations (such as in school or work).
Physical Threat Situation. When Kelly sees a spider on the other side of the room, the spider seems much bigger in size than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in size distortion when in when in situations that seem physically threatening.
People sometimes perceive the amount of distance or physical space between themselves and something or someone that is threatening as being smaller and closer than it is.
To illustrate this, please read the following passages:
Social Situation Example. While at a party, Neil sees the romantic partner that he just broke-up with glaring angrily at him from 10 feet away. She looks like she is ready to start a fight and Neil sees her as standing much closer than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in Space Compression when in social situations (like when you’re with friends, partners, family or in public)).
Achievement Situation Example. Phil gets called into his boss’ office to talk about Phil’s recent mistakes. He experiences boss as sitting closer than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in Space Compression when in achievement situations (such as in school or work).
Physical Threat Situation Example. When leaving her tent while camping, Nora sees a large snake. The snake is several yards away, but she sees it as being much closer than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in Space Compression when in situations that seem physically threatening.
*Misperceiving Threats as Physically Moving Closer
People may see potentially threatening things as moving closer and physically approaching them when this is not the case.
Social Example. While grocery shopping, Beth sees someone who recently said ugly and insulting things to her. She sees the person as physically moving in her direction even though they aren’t.
Please estimate how often you engage in the misperceiving threats as approaching distortion when in social situations (like when you’re with friends, partners, family or in public)).
Achievement Example. Rick’s boss moves into the hallway by his office as Rick is playing a game on his computer. Rick sees her as walking towards him more than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in the misperceiving threats as approaching distortion when in achievement situations (such as in school or work).
Potential Physical Threat Example. When visiting a neighborhood park, Brad notices a large stray dog and is unsure whether it is dangerous. Brad sees it as moving closer to him more than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in the misperceiving threats as approaching when in situations that seem physically threatening.
People sometimes experience the closeness (or distance) in time between themselves and an event that is threatening to them as or that makes them uncomfortable as smaller than it is.
Social Situation Example. Monty just remembers that he has forgotten to get his good friend a gift for his wedding that is coming up in three weeks. Despite the fact that Monty has plenty of time, he experiences the wedding as if it were going to occur more soon than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in time compression when in social situations (like when you’re with friends, partners, family or in public)).
Achievement Situation Example. Erica has weeks to finish a project for work that is important to her career. Despite the fact that she has plenty of time, she experiences the deadline as it were only a week away.
Please estimate how often you engage in time compression when in achievement situations (such as in school or work).
Potential Physical Threat Example. Julia is terrified of flying and has an airplane flight ticket to fly in three weeks. Despite the three weeks, she experiences the date of her flight as if it were much closer than is true.
Please estimate how often you engage in time compression when in situations that seem physically threatening.
People may experience a number of independent or unique things that they are worried about in the future, as though they will come all at once.
Social Situation Example. Sarah has an important date with someone new next week, a party she needs to plan for her friend’s graduation in a month, and a difficult visit with family members in six months. DESPITE the distance in time between the different events Sarah experiences them as if she has to deal with them all- at- once.
Achievement Situation Example. Larry has a work project due next week, a job review he’s concerned about in a month, and is getting a new boss he doesn’t know in six months. Despite the distance in time between the events, Larry feels as if he has to deal with all of the events at the same time.
Physical Threat Situation. Jonah will be going on a difficult fitness test he is nervous about during the next two weeks, a long and uncomfortable trip in a month, and major surgery in six months. In spite of the distance in time between the events, Jonah experiences the events as if he has to deal with them all at the same time.
*Experiencing Times as Moving Faster Than It Is
When confronted with a potentially threatening or unpleasant situation, people often experience time as passing far more quickly than is actually the case.
Social Situation Example. Jim agreed to speak at his best friend’s wedding despite a fear of public speaking. As the date approaches, he feels like time is going by much faster than it is.
Achievement Situation Example. Jane could fail to make the course grade she needs if she doesn’t get a good grade on an exam that is coming up. As she thinks about the coming exam, she experiences time as passing by faster than is true.
Physical Threat Situation. Jake is in the middle of the street and sees a car coming. Despite the fact that Jake has plenty of time to get across the street to safety, he experiences time as passing by much faster than it is.
*Odds Rising Too Rapidly
People sometimes see the odds (or chances) of feared or dreaded things occurring as increasing faster than is true as the events approach.
Achievement Situation Example. Shelly waits for someone to arrive for their first date which starts in 20 min. As each minute passes, she feels more and more convinced that the date will probably go badly.
Becky is about to take a big exam in 30 min that she must pass to get a job. She has the skill, but as each minute passes she gets more convinced that she will probably fail.
Dan is waiting for test results that will determine whether or not he needs to go to the hospital for a painful surgery. As each minute passes while he waits, he becomes increasingly convinced that he will probably need the surgery.
*Time Moving Too Slowly
When facing threatening or uncomfortable situations, people may experience time as passing more slowly than appears natural, causing them to perceive time as practically stationary and standing still.
Social Situation Example. Diana has delivered some painful news to a friend. While waiting for the friend to respond, she experiences time as if is moving is standing still and moving in extreme slow motion.
Achievement Situation Example. While Andrew is waiting for a job interview to begin, he experiences time as if it is standing still and each moment as it is taking forever.
Physical Threat Situation. As Allison finds that her car is skidding and sliding on a wet road, see sees that she is just about to hit a bus. As she watches, she experiences time as if it is moving in extreme slow motion.
*Minimizing Intervening Events
When people worry that an event could happen in the future, they sometimes overlook many other factors that could affect the outcome.
Social Situation Example. Mark hears the beginnings of a rumor that could cause harm to his reputation. He doesn’t consider that others may not hear the rumor or believe the rumor or keep spreading the rumor.
Achievement Situation Example. After failing her first-class exam, Anne feels she is sure to fail the whole class. She overlooks the fact that she would need to fail all her other exams and well as neglect all her future homework and final project to fail the course.
Physical Threat Situation. After Bailey hears about a house robbery nearby, she fears sure that the robber will break into her house. She doesn’t consider that the there are many other houses in the neighborhood that the robber can break into, and that the robber can move on to other neighborhoods or caught soon.
*Minimizing Coping Time
People sometimes perceive that they don’t have enough time to influence events when, in fact, they do.
Social Situation Example. Sally will host her sister’s graduation party in a month. She has plenty of time but experiences herself as having less time than is true.
Achievement Situation Example. Sean has to pass an upcoming exam. Although he has plenty of time, he experiences self as having too little time to prepare.
Physical Threat Situation. Carla sees a large wasp at rest on the wall on the other side of the room. She has plenty of time to get away, but she experiences herself as not having enough time to do this.
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Cite this article
Riskind, J.H., Calvete, E. Beyond Logical Errors: Preliminary Evidence for the “Looming Vulnerability Distortions Questionnaire” of Cognitive-Perceptual Distortions in Anxiety. Cogn Ther Res 47, 802–822 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-023-10370-z