Richard J. McNally

Richard J. McNally
Harvard University | Harvard · Department of Psychology

Ph.D.

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399
Publications
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29,676
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Publications

Publications (399)
Article
Background Dissociative experiences commonly occur in schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD). Yet little is known about how dissociative experiences in SSD are related to SSD symptoms. Accordingly, we investigated the relations between dissociative experiences and SSD symptoms, focusing on symptoms bridging these 2 symptom clusters as well as their...
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Research has pointed to startling worldwide rates of people reporting considerable anxiety vis-à-vis climate change. Yet, uncertainties remain regarding how climate anxiety’s cognitive-emotional features and daily life functional impairments interact with one another and with climate change experience, pro-environmental behaviors, and general worry...
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Objective: Graduate students frequently experience anxiety, depression, and psychological distress. Counseling centers struggle to meet this need. Brief, skills-based treatments to mitigate burgeoning or mild mental health problems could alleviate this problem. Participants: Participants were 51 graduate students in years one through seven of th...
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Research has pointed to startling worldwide rates of people reporting considerable anxiety vis-à-vis climate change. Yet, uncertainties remain regarding how climate anxiety’s cognitive-emotional features and daily life functional impairments interact with one another and with climate change experience, pro-environmental behaviors, and general worry...
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Ross (in press) argued that false memory researchers misunderstand the concepts of repression and dissociation, as well as the writings of Freud. In this commentary, we show that Ross is wrong. He oversimplifies and misrepresents the literature on repressed and false memory. We rebut Ross by showing the fallacies underlying his arguments. For examp...
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Background High negative affect, low positive affect, and limited physical activity figure prominently in psychopathology, but little is known about the interrelatedness of affect and physical activity in emotional disorders. Methods We combined ecological momentary assessment data with a network approach to examine the dynamic relations among pos...
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Exposure and response prevention is the gold-standard treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), yet up to half of patients do not adequately respond. Thus, different approaches to identifying and intervening with non-responders are badly needed. One approach would be to better understand the functional connections among aspects of OCD symp...
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Background Disentangling the impact of social media use on well-being is a priority for psychological research. Numerous studies suggest that active social media use (ASMU) enhances well-being, whereas passive social media use (PSMU) undermines it. However, such research has conducted group-level analyses, potentially obscuring individual differenc...
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The aims of this study were to identify self-reported point-prevalence rates of concerns about relationship mistreatment, emotional abuse, and physical abuse among military medical personnel and to evaluate demographic and military risk factors associated with these concerns. Participants (N = 721) were U.S. Air Force military medical personnel (61...
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Many war survivors suffer from chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unraveling the complexities of PTSD symptoms over time is crucial for understanding this condition. Going beyond a common pathogenic pathway perspective , we applied the network approach to psychopathology to analyze longitudinal data from war survivors with PTSD in five B...
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The concept of "trauma" was originally used by psychiatrists to describe horrific events such as rape and torture that characteristically provoke extreme emotional distress. Both colloquially and clinically, the concept of psychological trauma has broadened considerably. Although many clinical scientists have expressed concern about the broadening...
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Objective: Research suggests six motives for exposing oneself to painful reminders of a trauma outside of a therapeutic context (self-triggering). These include provoking arousal, escaping emotional numbness, self-punishment, controlling symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), making meaning of one's trauma, and generating an experience...
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Using network analysis, we estimated the structure of relations among manic and depressive symptoms, respectively, in 486 patients (59% women; age: M = 37, SD = 12.1) with bipolar disorder prior to their entering a clinical trial. We computed three types of networks: (a) Gaussian graphical models (GGMs) depicting regularized partial correlations, (...
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Objective: We explore the emerging concept of "self-triggering" through a case illustration of a Vietnam veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who engaged in self-triggering for 50 years after his index trauma. He reduced the frequency of self-triggering upon receiving a combination of cognitive processing therapy and behavioral exposu...
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When a traumatic experience is central to an individual's identity and worldview, it can result in either severe posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, perceived posttraumatic growth (PTG), or, paradoxically, both. To resolve this apparent paradox, we used network analytic methods to estimate the relations among components of event centrali...
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We present a dataset containing participants’ ratings ('n' = 250) of 600 written descriptions of events ranging from benign (‘witnessed a leaf falling from a tree’) to potentially distressing and/or injurious (‘was stabbed by a close friend’). Participants were randomly assigned to rate a subset of events on a 7-point Likert scale from “Not at all...
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In recent years, network analysis has been applied to identify and analyse patterns of statistical association in multivariate psychological data. In these approaches, network nodes represent variables in a data set, and edges represent pairwise conditional associations between variables in the data, while conditioning on the remaining variables. T...
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Objective: The term "trauma" seems to have expanded from a narrow usage (referring exclusively to extreme events such as rape and warfare) to a broad usage (encompassing almost any event that results in emotional distress). Today, individuals vary widely in the extent to which their personal "trauma concept" is relatively narrow or broad. In this s...
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Full-text available
Objectives We aimed to examine how a standardized compassion meditation program would induce changes in the patterns of interactions among psychological variables. Methods We conducted network analyses on psychological variables before and after 96 participants completed an 8-week Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program. Results After the C...
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Anxiety disorders are characterized by difficulty distinguishing safe contexts from previous or imagined threats. Conditioned fears spread beyond what is reasonable or adaptive, leading to broad and interfering anxieties when people overgeneralize their fears. Difficulties with mnemonic discrimination, a component process of memory supporting the i...
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The centrality of a traumatic event to one's autobiographical memory has been associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity. In the present study, we investigated the associations between specific features of event centrality (EC), as measured using the Centrality of Event Scale, and specific symptoms of PTSD. We computed a...
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Accumulating evidence suggests that cognitive training may enhance well-being. Yet, mixed findings imply that individual differences and training characteristics may interact to moderate training efficacy. To investigate this possibility, the current paper describes a protocol for a data-driven individual-level meta-analysis study aimed at developi...
Preprint
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Abstract: Disentangling the impact of social media use on our well-being is a priority for psychological research. Numerous studies indicate that active social media use (ASMU) tends to enhance well-being, whereas passive social media use (PSMU) undermines it. However, such research has conducted analyses at the group-level, thus potentially obscur...
Article
Background : The general aim of the study was to examine the relative effectiveness and mediators of change in standardized mindfulness and compassion interventions. Methods : A sample of 431 participants enrolled in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR = 277) and a Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT = 154). The assessment before a...
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Trauma can produce posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but may also foster positive outcomes, such as posttraumatic growth. Individual differences in coping styles may contribute to both positive and negative sequelae of trauma. Using network analytic methods, we investigated the structure of PTSD symptoms, elements of growth, and coping styles i...
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Alarmingly high rates of sexual assault on campus have motivated American colleges and universities to take steps to address this serious problem. Yet university administrators have often felt ill-equipped to assess allegations of sexual assault. Unsurprisingly, they have sought the expertise of psychologists who can educate administrative staff ab...
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Background: Loneliness, a transdiagnostic feature of psychopathology, is an experience of perceived isolation only weakly linked to amount of time spent alone. Although traditional loneliness interventions aim to increase social contact, targeting maladaptive cognition about time alone may be an effective way to reduce loneliness. We investigated w...
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Emerging adults are at substantial risk for developing or worsening psychopathology and university students appear to be particularly vulnerable. Interventions targeted at these young adults that can mitigate transdiagnostic causal risk factors or burgeoning mental health problems have the potential to make a large impact. We aimed to develop and p...
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Background We examined the relationship between affective expectations and experience in individuals varying in anhedonia. Individuals with anhedonia often show deficits in anticipatory pleasure but enjoy activities more than they expect they will. The purposes of this research were to (1) test whether we can manipulate the affective expectations o...
Article
Forbes, Wright, Markon, and Krueger claim that psychopathology network characteristics have “limited” or “poor” replicability, supporting their argument primarily with data from two waves of an observational study on depression and anxiety. They developed “direct metrics” to gauge change across networks (e.g., change in edge sign), and used these r...
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Objective Emotional or psychological pain is a core symptom of complicated grief (CG), yet its correlates are largely unexamined among bereaved individuals. Method Bereaved adults (N = 135) completed self‐reports regarding psychological pain, CG, depression, and suicidality. We assessed correlations among these variables and tested whether psychol...
Preprint
Full-text available
The word 'trauma' was originally used by psychiatrists to describe horrific events such as rape and torture that characteristically provoke extreme emotional distress. Both colloquially and clinically, the concept of psychological trauma has broadened considerably. Although many clinical scientists have expressed concern about the broadening of the...
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Reports an error in "Identity confusion in complicated grief: A closer look" by Benjamin W. Bellet, Nicole J. LeBlanc, Marie-Christine Nizzi, Mikaela L. Carter, Florentine H. S. van der Does, Jacqueline Peters, Donald J. Robinaugh and Richard J. McNally (Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2020[May], Vol 129[4], 397-407). In the original article, the f...
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The Clark and Wells (1995) model of social anxiety disorder postulates that three types of maladaptive social self-beliefs (high standard, conditional, and unconditional beliefs) play a crucial role in the development of fear and avoidance of social-evaluative situations—i.e., the hallmark symptoms of social anxiety disorder. In this project, we ex...
Preprint
Full-text available
The Clark and Wells (1995) model of social anxiety disorder postulates that three types of maladaptive social self-beliefs (high standard, conditional, and unconditional beliefs) play a crucial role in the development of fear and avoidance of social-evaluative situations—i.e., the hallmark symptoms of social anxiety disorder. In this project, we ex...
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Objective: Preexisting attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be a risk factor for worse outcome following sport-related concussion. We used a statistical and psychometric approach known as network analysis to examine the architecture of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms at preseason baseline among student athletes with ADHD...
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Trigger warnings alert trauma survivors about potentially disturbing forthcoming content. However, empirical studies on trigger warnings suggest that they are functionally inert or cause small adverse side effects. We conducted a preregistered replication and extension of a previous experiment. Trauma survivors ( N = 451) were randomly assigned to...
Preprint
Full-text available
The term 'trauma' seems to have expanded from a narrow usage (referring exclusively to extreme events such as rape and warfare) to a broad usage (encompassing almost any event that results in emotional distress). Today, individuals vary widely in the extent to which their personal 'trauma concept' is relatively narrow or broad. In this study, we ex...
Article
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by overgeneralized emotional reactivity following a trauma. Similarities between current, safe contexts and past, threatening events trigger recurrent, distressing responses and can contribute to a host of symptoms, including reexperiencing and hypervigilance. Mnemonic discrimination, a componen...
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Trigger warnings notify people that content they are about to engage with may result in adverse emotional consequences. An experiment by Bellet, Jones, and McNally (2018) indicated that trigger warnings increased the extent to which trauma-naïve crowd-sourced participants see themselves and others as emotionally vulnerable to potential future traum...
Preprint
Full-text available
Loneliness, a transdiagnostic feature of psychopathology, is an experience of perceived isolation only weakly linked to amount of time spent alone. Thus, targeting maladaptive beliefs about time alone may reduce loneliness. We investigated whether a brief reappraisal manipulation enables individuals to experience their time alone more positively. C...
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Complicated grief (CG) is characterized by a wide range of symptoms, including identity confusion or a sense that a part of oneself has died with the decedent. Although identity confusion is a commonly reported feature of CG, little is known about which specific aspects of self-concept are compromised. In the current study, we used qualitative codi...
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Objective: Pre-injury mental health problems are associated with greater symptom reporting following sport-related concussion. We applied a statistical and psychometric approach known as network analysis to examine the interrelationships among symptoms at baseline in adolescent student athletes with a history of mental health problems.Design: Cross...
Article
The Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) measures fears of anxiety-related symptoms based on respondent beliefs about their harmfulness. This is the first network analysis of anxiety sensitivity and PTSD, and the first to explore an addendum of culturally salient fears in such an analysis. The purpose of our study was to test whether relations among PTS...
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Trauma survivors who self-trigger, or seek reminders of their traumatic events, have been noted in the clinical literature but have not yet been the subject of a systematic empirical inquiry. This article presents the results of two exploratory studies of self-triggering. In Study 1 ( N = 545), we estimated the behavior’s clinical relevance among t...
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Regular and even single sessions of aerobic exercise may benefit emotional health. Experiments show that prior exercise hastens emotional recovery following a stressor despite not changing reports of rumination or other emotion regulation difficulties. We use network analyses to explore whether traditional approaches for conceptualizing and measuri...
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Background: Self-blame following bereavement has been implicated in the development of post-loss psychopathology. However, prior studies have not distinguished between the emotions of shame versus guilt. This study examined the cross-sectional associations among bereavement-related shame, bereavement-related guilt, and two mental disorders that co...
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Objective: Eating disorders (EDs) are complex, heterogeneous, and severe psychiatric syndromes. They are highly comorbid with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which exacerbates the course of illness and impedes treatment. However, the direct functional relations between EDs and OCD symptoms remain largely unexplored. Hence, using network analys...
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Background: Cognitive vulnerability theories of depression outline multiple, distinct inferential biases constitutive of cognitive vulnerability to depression. These include attributing negative events to internal, stable, and global factors, assuming that negative events will lead to further negative consequences, and inferring that negative even...
Preprint
Clinicians aim to discern causal relations among features of mental disorders. Yet observational data are insufficient to confirm these relations. In the present study, we describe a causal graph approach to illustrate how one can discern causal relations among features of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) by applying the Invariant Causal Predict...
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Background and objectives: Efficacious interventions soon after trauma exposure to prevent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are scarce. Evidence suggests that post-trauma, reminder cues to reactivate trauma memory followed by a cognitive visuospatial task, such as Tetris, reduce later intrusive images. Furthermore, studies indicate that aerobi...
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Mnemonic discrimination, the ability to differentiate highly similar old and new entities, is a novel mechanism of interest in anxiety disorders. However, little research has been conducted with individuals experiencing severe anxiety. Mnemonic discrimination was assessed in adults with a wide range of anxiety severity. State affect was manipulated...
Preprint
Full-text available
Objective: Trigger warnings alert trauma survivors about potentially disturbing forthcoming content. However, most empirical studies on trigger warnings indicate that they are either functionally inert or cause small adverse side effects. These evaluations have been limited to either trauma-naïve participants or mixed samples. Accordingly, we teste...
Preprint
Full-text available
Forbes, Wright, Markon, and Krueger claim that psychopathology networks have "limited" or "poor" replicability, supporting their argument primarily with data from two waves of an observational study on depression and anxiety. They developed “direct metrics” to gauge change across networks (e.g., change in edge sign), and used these results to suppo...
Article
Full-text available
Recently, researchers in clinical psychology have endeavored to create network models of the relationships between symptoms, both within and across mental disorders. Symptoms that connect two mental disorders are called "bridge symptoms." Unfortunately, no formal quantitative methods for identifying these bridge symptoms exist. Accordingly, we deve...
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Background and objectives: Rumination is strongly associated with risk, maintenance, and worsening of depressive and related symptoms, and it predicts poor treatment response and relapse. More work is needed to clarify the nature and malleability of rumination. We propose reexamining trait rumination as a system of interacting components ("nodes")...
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The network theory of psychopathology posits that mental disorders are complex systems of mutually reinforcing symptoms. This overarching framework has proven highly generative but does not specify precisely how any specific mental disorder operates as such a system. We address this gap in the literature by developing a network theory of Panic Diso...
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Background Research indicates that people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) possess several cognitive biases, including a tendency to over-estimate threat and avoid risk. Studies have suggested that people with OCD not only over-estimate the severity of negative events, but also under-estimate their ability to cope with such occurr...
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Borsboom et al. have written a trenchant critique of biological reductionism in psychopathology. After commenting on recent controversies concerning the network perspective, I discuss ways of integrating biology into the network enterprise.
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Background and objectives: Researchers have identified intolerance of uncertainty (IU) as a dysfunctional thought that contributes to OCD. Case examples of OCD suggest that uncertainty and anxiety persist despite low likelihoods of feared outcomes. In this study we examined how people with OCD react to minimal amounts of uncertainty relative to no...
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The purpose of our commentary is to underscore key take-home points of the 11 articles in this special series on appraisals and trauma. Two important take-home points relate to (i) the question of whether appraisals mediate the relationship between trauma and trauma-relevant symptoms, and (ii) the methodological innovations presented here. Further,...
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The purpose of this article is to review recent research that is relevant to three controversies concerning memory for trauma. First, we briefly review the debate about recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse, summarizing a third interpretation distinct from both the repression and false-memory accounts. Second, we address new findings related...
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The original version of this article has been updated with a more appropriate analytical approach.
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Passive social media use (PSMU)—for example, scrolling through social media news feeds—has been associated with depression symptoms. It is unclear, however, if PSMU causes depression symptoms or vice versa. In this study, 125 students reported PSMU, depression symptoms, and stress 7 times daily for 14 days. We used multilevel vector autoregressive...
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Full-text available
Networks have emerged as a popular method for studying mental disorders. Psychopathology networks consist of aspects (e.g., symptoms) of mental disorders (nodes) and the connections between those aspects (edges). Unfortunately, the visual presentation of networks can occasionally be misleading. For instance, researchers may be tempted to conclude t...
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Pattern separation is a facet of memory encoding that facilitates the adaptive integration of old and new experiences. At the computational level, this process reduces overlap between how two entities are represented. Behaviorally, this allows for greater memory resolution while avoiding memory interference; similar entities are perceived as distin...
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This study surveyed 1,129 U.S. military medical personnel deployed to a combat support hospital in Iraq regarding their attitudes and beliefs about providing healthcare to Iraqi National Guard, civilian, and security detainee patients. A significant percentage of military medical personnel reported they were comfortable treating Iraqi patients. How...
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Though it has been widely demonstrated that regular exercise is associated with better emotional wellbeing, the nature of this association remains unclear. The present study explored the relationship between voluntary exercise and the temporal dynamics of daily emotions, and thus how voluntary exercise could be impacting emotional reactivity and re...
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Background and objectives: Trigger warnings notify people of the distress that written, audiovisual, or other material may evoke, and were initially used to provide for the needs of those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since their inception, trigger warnings have become more widely applied throughout contemporary culture, sparking inte...
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Bereavement can lead to negative outcomes such as complicated grief (CG), but some mourners with symptoms of CG often experience positive sequelae of loss such as posttraumatic growth (PTG) as well. We propose that grief and growth co-occur and change one another because they alternately reinforce and weaken each other at the level of their respect...