Put on a Happy Face
- Subliminal negative biases in attention, interpretation and memory are linked with a heightened vulnerability to stress and anxiety.
- A new therapeutic approach, called cognitive-bias modification, aims to overturn these biases and build resilience with a simple computerized task.
- Early results suggest that the therapy could help combat depression, anxiety disorders and even alcohol addiction.
When I was a 14-year-old in a suburb of Dublin, we were at the height of “the Troubles.” During this period of civil unrest, our school regularly took in girls from Northern Ireland to get them away from the bomb blasts and shootings in Belfast, some two hours' drive across the border. One of these girls was named Sandra, and she had been at our school for a couple of weeks when one day the two of us decided to walk home for lunch. As I was walking and chatting, I suddenly became aware that Sandra was no longer beside me.
Looking around, I saw her about 10 meters back, lying flat on the pavement. A car had backfired, and she had instantly thrown herself on the ground. Deep in her brain, an alarm signal had gone off. That same signal had slipped past me unnoticed.
This article was originally published with the title The Essence of Optimism.