• Acceptance and values clarification versus cognitive restructuring and relaxation: A randomized controlled trial of ultra-brief non-expert-delivered coaching interventions for social resilience.

      Hochard, Kevin; Hulbert-Williams, Lee; Ashcroft, Sam; McLoughlin, Shane; University of Chester; Liverpool John Moores University
      Low social resilience (e.g., susceptibility to social anxiety, and social avoidance) has been associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes, and can lead to ostracism. Support services such as university counselling centres, which deal with non-diagnosable psychological distress, linked to low social resilience, require effective yet brief interventions deliverable by non-experts to meet service demands. As it is not always possible to prevent subjectively negative experiences, acceptance-based interventions aim to change how we respond behaviourally to such experiences. The present study tests the efficacy of an ultra-brief (1hr) non-expert delivered acceptance and values-based (AV) coaching intervention to increase resilience to negative social interactions. This was compared to a comparable dose of a cognitive restructuring and relaxation-based (CRR) analogue, and a psycho-education and progressive muscle relaxation-based (PE-PMR) control. Participants ( N =60) were assessed on perceived burdensomeness, belonging, and 3 scenarios measuring anxiety and likelihood to engage in social situations. Participants then played Cyberball, an ostracising task, before recompleting the aforementioned measures. Physiological measures indicated Cyberball was an aversive experience. In the AV condition only, we observed an improved behavioral intention to engage with social scenarios ( dppc2 = .57). Ultra-brief AV-based coaching interventions delivered by non-expert coaches appear promising in increasing participant’s likelihood to continue engaging in social interactions after a stressful social experience. We tentatively conclude that gains in committed action may increase the propensity of at-risk individuals to seek social support.
    • Exploring thematic Nightmare content and associated self-harm risk

      Hochard, Kevin D.; Ashcroft, Sam; Carroll, Janine; Heym, Nadja; Townsend, Ellen; University of Chester; Nottingham Trent University; University of Nottingham (Wiley, 2017-09-28)
      Nightmares have been shown to be robust predictors of self-harm risk, beyond depressive symptoms and hopelessness at times. However, few studies have investigated associations between nightmare content and increased self-harm risk. The present study explored associations of thematic nightmare content with history of self-harm, and risk of self-harm phenomena the morning following a nightmare. A mixed-method diary study was employed. Prospective nightmare reports were obtained from 72 participants. A total of 47 nightmare reports met inclusion criteria and were analyzed for themes using inductive thematic analysis. Chi-square and bootstrap Pearson’s correlation tests were performed to assess the associations between nightmare themes and self-harm history and risk of self-harm phenomena following a nightmare. ‘Powerlessness to Change Behavior’ was associated a history of self-harm engagement, whereas ‘Financial Hardship’ indicated reduced risk. Themes were not significantly associated with increased risk of self-harm phenomena following a nightmare. Content may be of use in detecting lifetime history of self-harm engagement particularly in populations where disclosure is seen as taboo. However, nightmare symptom severity remains better indicators of risk. Evidence for the utility of nightmare content in assessing immediate self-harm risk is presently lacking. Replication with increased power is recommended.
    • Technical Notation as a Tool for Basic Research in Relational Frame Theory

      Tyndall, Ian; Mulhern, Teresa; Ashcroft, Sam; McLoughlin, Shane; University of Chester; University of Chichester (Springer Verlag, 2019-04-08)
      A core overarching aim of Relational Frame Theory (RFT) research on language and cognition is the prediction and influence of human behavior with precision, scope, and depth. However, the conceptualization and delineation of empirical investigations of higher-order language and cognition from a relational framing theoretical standpoint is a challenging task that requires a high degree of abstract reasoning and creativity. To that end, we propose using symbolic notation as seen in early RFT experimental literature as a possible functional-analytical tool to aid in the articulation of hypotheses and design of such experiments. In this article, we provide examples of aspects of cognition previously identified in RFT literature and how they can be articulated rather more concisely using technical notation than in-text illustration. We then provide a brief demonstration of the utility of notation by offering examples of several novel experiments and hypotheses in notation format. In two tables, we provide a “key” for understanding the technical notation written herein, which other basic-science researchers may decide to draw on in future. To conclude, this article is intended to be a useful resource to those who wish to carry out basic RFT research on complex language and cognition with greater technical clarity, precision, and broad scope.
    • When speaking English is not enough: The consequences of Language-based stigma for non-native speakers

      Birney, Megan E.; Rabinovich, Anna; Morton, Thomas A.; Heath, Hannah; Ashcroft, Sam; University Centre Shrewsbury, University of Chester (Sage, 2019-11-06)
      We explored the effects of language-based stigma on the relationship between native and non-native speakers. In two studies we found that stigmatized non-native speakers experienced more negative interpersonal interactions, higher levels of intergroup threat, and reduced performance on an English test compared to non-native speakers who did not experience stigma. These effects were mediated by anxiety and moderated by prevention-related goals. Furthermore, native speakers perceived stigmatized (vs. not-stigmatized) speakers’ accents as stronger and their commitment to living in the host country as weaker. Our findings suggest that experiencing language-based stigma can: a) incite a stereotype threat response from non-native speakers, and b) damage their relationship with native speakers on an interpersonal and intergroup level.