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Distinct Negative Beliefs About Uncertainty and Their Association With Worry: An Exploration of the Factors of the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale and Their Correlates

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Distinct Negative Beliefs About Uncertainty and Their Association With Worry: An Exploration of the Factors of the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale and Their Correlates

Sexton, Kathryn A. (2011) Distinct Negative Beliefs About Uncertainty and Their Association With Worry: An Exploration of the Factors of the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale and Their Correlates. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Intolerance of uncertainty, “a dispositional characteristic that results from a set of negative beliefs about uncertainty and its implications” (Dugas & Robichaud, 2007, p. 24), has been implicated in worry/generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Despite significant advances in our understanding of its role as a cognitive vulnerability for GAD, questions remain regarding its measurement and construct validity, as a reliable set of negative beliefs has yet to be identified. The goal of this research was therefore to discern the specific negative beliefs about uncertainty which result in intolerance of uncertainty. In the first study, the factor structure of the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS; Buhr & Dugas, 2002; Freeston et al., 1994) was re-examined in separate large non-clinical samples, and the association of these factors with GAD symptomatology was explored. A second study further examined the convergent, discriminant, and criterion-related validity of these negative beliefs about uncertainty, as well as their specificity, in relation to similar behavioural and cognitive constructs and to information-processing biases. To this end, the Ambiguous Situations Questionnaire (ASQ) was developed to further assess interpretive biases in specific ambiguous situations and to differentiate the cognitive, behavioural, and emotional reactions that characterize these distinct beliefs about uncertainty.

Two replicable negative beliefs about uncertainty were identified: 1) the belief that Uncertainty has Negative Behavioural and Self-Referent Implications, and 2) the belief that Uncertainty is Unfair and Spoils Everything. The first of these was specifically associated with indecisiveness, procrastination, the tendency to personalize negative situations, and with perceptions of specific ambiguous situations as having negative personal implications. This belief also showed stronger correlations with GAD analogue status, trait anxiety, somatic anxiety, and depressive symptoms. In contrast, the second of these beliefs was associated with a preference for order in the environment, with self-oriented and other-oriented perfectionism, and with perceptions of specific ambiguous situations as unfair and disruptive. Both negative beliefs about uncertainty were also associated with information-seeking, with negatively biased interpretations of ambiguous situations, and with pathological worry.

Collectively, these studies’ findings suggest that uncertainty is experienced as aversive by individuals who believe it negatively impacts their ability to function and who show a tendency to personalize these perceived difficulties. It is also experienced as aversive by individuals who believe it to be unfair, as it contradicts their expectations of structure in the environment and may be perceived as hindering elevated personal standards from being met. These findings further support the validity of this construct, and are consistent with a growing literature which suggests that intolerance of uncertainty contributes to information-processing biases and confers vulnerability to excessive and uncontrollable worry.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Sexton, Kathryn A.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Psychology
Date:02 November 2011
Thesis Supervisor(s):Dugas, Michel J.
Keywords:worry; generalized anxiety disorder; intolerance of uncertainty; factor analysis; construct validity; criterion-related validity; information-processing biases; threat appraisals in ambiguous situations
ID Code:36076
Deposited By:KATHRYN ANN SEXTON
Deposited On:20 Jun 2012 15:49
Last Modified:18 Jun 2013 10:06
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