Theses Doctoral

The Effects of a Web-Based Cognitive Training Induction on Problem Solving among Suicidal Young Adults

Guzmán Daireaux, Eleonora M.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) are a problem among young adults. Problem solving deficits have been implicated in suicide outcomes and may be especially relevant to young adults given the developmental demands and increased risk for STBs during this life stage. Emerging research suggests that problem solving and related cognitive processes (e.g., episodic memory) can be modified through a brief cognitive training session, hereafter referred to as the specificity induction. However, it is unknown whether benefits of this specificity induction extend to suicidal populations.

The present study tested a web-based version of the specificity induction intended to improve problem solving skills, episodic memory and divergent thinking among suicidal young adults. We recruited and consented a sample of 105 young adults with past year STBs and randomly assigned them to receive either the specificity induction or a control condition (i.e., general impressions induction). Regarding feasibility of conducting an online study with this population 81.90% (n=86) of those who provided informed consent completed the study protocol. Regarding clinical acceptability of the web-based specificity induction, the majority of participants which received this cognitive training rated that they would be unlikely to “use again”, while endorsing that it was “easy to use” across several items of a user experience self-report questionnaire.

Contrary to hypotheses,young adults assigned to complete the specificity induction did not show improvement in their performance on measures of problem solving and related cognitive processes compared to those assigned to the control condition. Through post-hoc analyses we investigated candidate sources of systematic variability in task performance (e.g., attention, mood, task order effects), but none were found to account for participants’ demonstrated problem solving performance. In sum, we conclude that testing this brief cognitive training through an online experimental study was feasible, the cognitive training was modestly acceptable in its online format, and it does not immediately improve suicidal young adults’ problem solving or related cognitive processes. By demonstrating what does not necessarily work with suicidal young adults, there remains room for future research to pursue alternative design or modes of single session interventions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Cha, Christine Boram
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 18, 2021