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A social inference model of idealization and devaluation

Story, Giles W; Smith, Ryan; Moutoussis, Michael; Berwian, Isabel M; Nolte, Tobias; Bilek, Edda; Siegel, Jenifer Z; (2023) A social inference model of idealization and devaluation. Psychological Review 10.1037/rev0000430. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

People often form polarized beliefs, imbuing objects (e.g., themselves or others) with unambiguously positive or negative qualities. In clinical settings, this is referred to as dichotomous thinking or "splitting" and is a feature of several psychiatric disorders. Here, we introduce a Bayesian model of splitting that parameterizes a tendency to rigidly categorize objects as either entirely "Bad" or "Good," rather than to flexibly learn dispositions along a continuous scale. Distinct from the previous descriptive theories, the model makes quantitative predictions about how dichotomous beliefs emerge and are updated in light of new information. Specifically, the model addresses how splitting is context-dependent, yet exhibits stability across time. A key model feature is that phases of devaluation and/or idealization are consolidated by rationally attributing counter-evidence to external factors. For example, when another person is idealized, their less-than-perfect behavior is attributed to unfavorable external circumstances. However, sufficient counter-evidence can trigger switches of polarity, producing bistable dynamics. We show that the model can be fitted to empirical data, to measure individual susceptibility to relational instability. For example, we find that a latent categorical belief that others are "Good" accounts for less changeable, and more certain, character impressions of benevolent as opposed to malevolent others among healthy participants. By comparison, character impressions made by participants with borderline personality disorder reveal significantly higher and more symmetric splitting. The generative framework proposed invites applications for modeling oscillatory relational and affective dynamics in psychotherapeutic contexts. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

Type: Article
Title: A social inference model of idealization and devaluation
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/rev0000430
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000430
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 American Psychological Association. Open Access funding provided by University College London: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10175849
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