Implicit Measures of Association in Psychopathology Research
Studies obtaining implicit measures of associations in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., Text Revision; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) Axis I psychopathology are organized into three categories: (a) studies comparing groups having a disorder with controls, (b) experimental validity studies, and (c) incremental and predictive validity studies. In the first category, implicit measures of disorder-relevant associations were consistent with explicit beliefs for some disorders (e.g., specific phobia), but for other disorders evidence was either mixed (e.g., panic disorder) or inconsistent with explicit beliefs (e.g., pain disorder). For substance use disorders and overeating, expected positive and unexpected negative associations with craved substances were found consistently. Contrary to expectation, implicit measures of self-esteem were consistently positive for patients with depressive disorder, social phobia, and body dysmorphic disorder. In the second category, short-term manipulations of disorder-relevant states generally affected implicit measures as expected. Therapeutic interventions affected implicit measures for one type of specific phobia, social phobia, and panic disorder, but not for alcohol use disorders or obesity. In the third category, implicit measures had predictive value for certain psychopathological behaviors, sometimes moderated by the availability of cognitive resources (e.g., for alcohol and food, only when cognitive resources were limited). The strengths of implicit measures include (a) converging evidence for dysfunctional beliefs regarding certain disorders and consistent new insights for other disorders and (b) prediction of some psychopathological behaviors that explicit measures cannot explain. Weaknesses include (a) that findings were inconsistent for some disorders, raising doubts about the validity of the measures, and (b) that understanding of the concept " implicit" is incomplete.