Understanding Our Own Biology: The Relevance of Auto-biological Knowledge for Mental Health
As knowledge of the neurobiological basis of psychopathology has advanced, public perceptions have shifted towards conceptualizing mental disorders as disorders of biology. However, little is known about how people respond to biological information about their own disorders. Such information is auto-biological—describing our own biological systems as a component of our identity. Chapter 1 presents a theory-based approach to conceptualizing how auto-biological information can influence people’s beliefs about their disorders, and proposes an attributional framework for presenting auto-biological information in a way that encourages agency, rather than destiny. Chapter 2 tests that framework by measuring the impact of auto-biological beliefs about vulnerability for affective disorders on attentional bias in a sample of healthy undergraduates. Chapter 3 moves towards clinical application and examines auto-biological beliefs about the efficacy of cognitive strategies for influencing brain activity in a sample of individuals previously treated for depression. Chapter 4 discusses the evidence from these studies supporting the relevance of auto-biological beliefs for mental health, and presents challenges for future research.
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