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The Qolty affective interference module utilizes a recall system for testing short term recall. Words can be read from the Qolty module using the phone or listed as text. Input can be recorded by the patient or inputted via buttons and text. Onboarding module included. The affective intereference test is an excellent test to use in patients with applications to neurological disease such as TBI, stroke, and general cognitive function

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Introduction

Emotions are a basic component of personal development and social interactions. In fact, the intense range of emotions, such as fear, has played a crucial role in human’s evolution and survival. Not surprisingly, mental experiences interfere with people’s cognitive functioning, feelings, and behavior.

Measuring affective functioning and response is a crucial aspect of the psychological and medical evaluation of patients and healthy individuals. The differences in onset of emotions, the ability to identify and regulate emotions, and the attention to emotion are leading aspects that influence emotional functioning (Martin et al., 2013). In practice, the affective interference (AI) task (Fazio, 2001) has been implemented as an effective tool to evaluate emotions.

Generally speaking, the AI task is linked to the Stroop color-naming task, with both congruent and incongruent trials included. Note that congruent tasks are identified as non-interference trials, while incongruent tasks – as high-interference trials. In addition, the AI test is a great indicator for short-term recall. The test can be used for the evaluation of general cognitive functioning, neurological diseases, and mental disorders.

As technology plays a crucial part in research, Qolty affective interference feature has implemented a mobile-friendly operational system and interface to foster scientific knowledge and improve practical outcomes in medicine.

Methods

The affective interference module measures both the accuracy of short-term recall and the reaction time of participants. The method requires from participants to read a valenced cue word (e.g., ‘friendly’) and judge the valence of a target word (e.g., ‘birthday’) (Martin et al., 2013). According to the affective interference effect assumption, people are slower and less accurate in incongruent tasks, which, as described above, are tasks that interfere with people’s emotional and cognitive functioning. It’s interesting that usually, changes in attention to the affective cue can change the affective interference.

As mentioned above, the affective interference test is close to the Stroop color-naming task, and it’s originally known as the emotional Stroop task. The main goal of the emotional Stroop test is to test participants and their ability to name colors of negative emotional words (e.g., “cancer”). Note that in the emotional Stroop test, there’s no conflict between the color of the word and its meaning. Even when the words are displayed in black, the interference comes from the emotional valence of the word, not the color.

Later, subjects may be asked to recall and recognize words among distractor pairs. Emotional words slow the process of naming the color of the word, while at the same time, they are easy to remember, recall, and recognize.

Applications

The affective interference test is a valuable tool in the assessment of:

  • Onset of emotion
  • Attention to emotion
  • Meta-mood processing
  • Prepotent response inhibition
  • Ability to identify emotions
  • Ability to regulate emotions
  • Short-term recall
  • Neurological diseases
  • Impairments in emotion

An interesting approach is the usage of the AI task in the assessment of schizophrenic patients (Martin et al., 2013). People with schizophrenia (n=48) and non-psychiatric subjects (n=28) were assessed regarding attention to affective information. Positively and negatively valenced cue and target words were included and presented on a computer screen. Note that the words weren’t semantically related (e.g., ‘gift’ and birthday’). There were eight practice trials, followed by nine blocks of 24 trials.

Comparisons

AI test has a wide range of versions, with great psychometric properties and applications. For the complete evaluation of people’s emotional responses, the AI test can be used along with:

1) Social Anhedonia Scale (40 true-false items designed to measure lack of relationships and lack of pleasure from relationships)

2) Physical Anhedonia Scale (61 items designed to measure a lack of pleasure gained from physical stimuli and activities)

3) Cognitive interference task (various tasks to evaluate a target; usually, a central fixation cross is displayed, and then a cue is presented) (Martin et al., 2013).

AI can also be used along with subjective methods and self-reports, such as the FAST (Martin et al., 2013) and PANAS (Harmon-Jones et al., 2016). Note that the FAST measure shows good convergent validity.

Popular modified versions of the Emotional Stroop test are the Emotion Inhibition Test and the Affective Auditory Verbal Learning Test, which evaluate immediate and delayed affective and non-affective memory and recall (Bauer et al., 2015). For instance, in the Emotion Inhibition Test, participants have four trials of 10 non-affective words and 10 affective words. An example of a non-affective item is ‘tomatoes,’ and an example of an affective item – ‘cancer.’ After a 20-minute delay, recognition memory task is given.

Translations

When it comes to AI tests, native speakers are preferred for optimal understanding. It’s also important for examiners to make sure that participants do not measure cue in an idiosyncratic manner; therefore, examiners often need to provide feedback (Martin et al., 2013).

Results & Data Analysis

Alternate forms of TMT have been created because condition B may become an obstacle for non-native English speakers. Therefore, various translations, such as in Spanish and Hindi, have been developed. Note that the Color Trails Test can also be applied for non-English speakers.

Research shows that in the Emotional Stroop test, emotional words, such as ‘cancer,’ slow the process of naming the color of the word. However, emotionally charged words are easy to remember, recall, and recognize.

At the same time, repeated measures ANOVA showed that schizophrenic patients show a decreased affective interference effects compared to the control group (Martin et al., 2013). Based on previous research, decreased affective interference correlates with decreased attention to affective information.

It’s not only schizophrenic patients that differ from controls. Patients with bipolar disorder also show an impairment in short-term non-affective memory and verbal fluency (Bauer et al., 2015). The team used the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Affective Disorders (BAC-A) to test 90 patients and 56 controls. Note that the BAC-A consists of eight tasks, which measure aspects, such as visuomotor abilities, working memory, attention, verbal fluency, affective interference and affective inhibition.

Strengths and Limitations

The affective interference task has a wide range of applications across various domains, applicable to patients and healthy individuals.

However, there are some limitations that existing studies reveal. Some experts believe different tools should be combined to assess AI. A suggestion is to implement the dot-probe task in future research in order to test the inattention to affective information in patients with schizophrenia. In addition, another suggestion is to measure the reaction time and people’s motor and cognitive speed, especially in patients with bipolar disorder.

Nevertheless, the AI task can have an impact on treatment and real-life situations. For instance, it’s believed that increasing attention to emotion via attentional training can be used to treat anhedonia.

Summary & Key Points

  • The Affective Interference task is an effective tool to test short-term recall and attention to emotion.
  • The test can be used for the evaluation of general cognitive functioning, neurological diseases, and mental disorders.
  • The AI task is based on the Stroop color-naming task, with both congruent and incongruent trials included.
  • Popular modified versions of the Emotional Stroop test are the Emotion Inhibition Test and the Affective Auditory Verbal Learning Test.
  • Results show that emotional words, such as ‘cancer,’ slow the process of naming the color of the word.
  • On the other hand, emotionally charged words are easy to remember, recall, and recognize.
  • Schizophrenic patients show a decreased affective interference effect and decreased attention to affective information (Martin et al., 2013).
  • Patients with bipolar disorder also show an impairment in short-term non-affective memory and verbal fluency (Bauer et al., 2015).
  • The AI task can be used to treat anhedonia via attentional training.

References

Bauer, I., Keefe, R., Sanches, M., Suchting, R., Green, C., & Soares, J. (2015). Evaluation of cognitive function in bipolar disorder using the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Affective Disorders (BAC-A). Journal of Psychiatric Research, 60, 81-86.

Fazio, R. (2001). On the automatic activation of associated evaluations: An overview.  Cognition & Emotion, 15, 115-141.

Harmon-Jones, C., Bastia, B., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2016). The Discrete Emotions Questionnaire: A New Tool for Measuring State Self-Reported Emotions. Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0159915.

Martin, E., Becker, T., Cicero, D., & Kerns, J. (2013). Examination of Affective and Cognitive Interference in Schizophrenia and Relation to Symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 733-744.