Perfectly imperfect: The use of cognitive bias modification to reduce perfectionism

Dorian R. Dodd, E. Marie Parsons, Elise M. Clerkin, Lauren N. Forrest, Elizabeth A. Velkoff, Jonathan W. Kunstman, April R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Perfectionism is a transdiagnostic risk and maintenance factor for psychopathology. The current study developed and evaluated a cognitive bias modification, interpretation retraining (CBM-I) intervention targeting maladaptive perfectionistic beliefs. Methods: Participants were undergraduate students randomized to complete the perfectionism CBM-I (n = 33) or control condition task (n = 36) at two time points. Additionally, participants completed measures of perfectionistic interpretations and trait perfectionism, as well as an impossible anagram task designed to elicit perfectionistic concerns. Results: Results indicated that after the intervention, participants who completed the perfectionism CBM-I endorsed fewer perfectionistic interpretations than participants in the control condition. Furthermore, although the study groups self-reported comparably low confidence in their anagram task performance, participants who completed the perfectionism CBM-I reported wanting to re-do significantly fewer anagrams than participants in the control condition, suggesting greater acceptance of imperfect performance following the intervention. Moreover, supporting a key hypothesized mechanism of effect in CBM-I, reductions in perfectionistic interpretations mediated the effect of condition on the desire to re-do anagram task items. Limitations: The study results should be viewed in light of limitations, including the short time-span of the study, and the use of a relatively small, non-clinical, and demographically homogenous convenience sample. Conclusions: Further research and development of the perfectionism CBM-I intervention are needed, but the present findings add to a nascent evidence base that suggests CBM-I holds promise as an accessible and transdiagnostic intervention for perfectionism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
StatePublished - Sep 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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