This part of the CogBIAS Project will investigate how a range of cognitive biases and action tendencies develop in a large cohort of adolescents. Our first study is going to collect data from a sample of 500 young adolescents near the beginning of secondary school when they are aged 12 years. We will follow this cohort for the entirety of their secondary school education until the age of 16 years. We will conduct three in-depth assessments with participants which will be spaced 18-24 months apart, so that we can track their emotional and cognitive development, which we hope will enhance current knowledge on these associations.
We are interested in a range of cognitive biases – including biases in attention, biases in memory, biases in interpretation of ambiguous situations, and action tendencies to food stimuli – including approach and avoidance behaviour. We are interested in examining how these biases relate to one another, as well as how they relate and contribute to adolescent’s reactions to stress – including symptoms of anxiety, depression and resilience. We will also be investigating genetic associations, with a special focus on genes that control for levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain; which are thought to influence behaviour and personality. We hope to add to the growing field of behavioural genetics to improve understanding of the relationship between genes, cognitions and outcomes – both positive and negative.
With this longitudinal project, we will have the possibility of examining epigenetic information – where we can identify which genes have been expressed or not – in order to determine how genes might interact with environmental influences to produce outcomes related to anxiety, depression and addiction-type behaviours.
We will also be conducting intervention studies with adolescents, which will aim to modify cognitive biases. These interventions will be compared with control conditions – like placebo conditions – in which the biases will not be modified, and will utilise a double-blind method, as neither participants or research assistants will be aware of the condition (either experimental or control). These interventions will help us to answer questions such as: Is it possible to change cognitive biases? What effect will this change have on subjective measures of well-being? Are cognitive biases a key player in the development of anxiety, depression and addiction-type behaviours? Is cognitive bias modification (CBM) a valuable intervention for boosting resilience and mental well-being?
We are still recruiting participants for the longitudinal project from schools in the Oxfordshire area. If you are interested in this research project and would like some more information about how to be involved, then please contact the research assistant – Charlotte Booth – by email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be starting the intervention studies in the following academic year, so keep checking this page for opportunities to take part!