The Impact of Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms on Self-Reported Invalidation and Learning Task Performance

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Invalidation has been defined as the perception that one’s thoughts, emotions, or behaviors are inappropriate, inaccurate, or misunderstood by others. Invalidating responses have been shown to increase emotional arousal (Shenk, 2007) and impair cognitive ability (Fruzzetti, 2005). Invalidation may be particularly problematic for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and related features, due to increased emotional sensitivity and reactivity (Domes, Schulze, & Herpertz, 2009) and negative interpersonal biases (Barnow et al., 2009). We experimentally assessed the impact of validating and invalidating experiences on learning task performance. Undergraduate participants (N = 66) first completed the borderline features scale of the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI-BOR; Morey, 1991) and a self-report measure of invalidation. They were then randomized to receive 4 minutes of either validating or invalidating feedback while recalling a time they were angry; finally, cognitive flexibility was assessed using a card-sorting task. We predicted that 1) Higher BPD features would predict greater self-reported invalidation, and 2) BPD features would moderate the relationship between feedback condition and learning task performance, such that higher BPD features would be associated with poorer performance. We found that as BPD features increased, invalidation also increased; however, this main effect was in the context of a significant interaction effect, such that highest self-reported invalidation occurred at high levels of BPD symptoms in the invalidation condition. Furthermore, higher BPD features were associated with committing a greater number of errors on the learning task when invalidated. Thus, invalidation may be particularly problematic in terms of learning for those with heightened BPD features; future research should examine the impact of invalidation within the context of psychotherapy, to inform practitioners and guide clinical practice.


Poster Division: Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences: 2nd Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)


Cognition, Borderline Personality Disorder, Learning, Invalidation