Cognitive Therapy and Research vol:38 issue:6 pages:652-659
Psychotherapy introduces new learning that can retroactively interfere with the expression of initial learning that contributed to psychological dysfunction. However, expression of the initial learning can spontaneously recover with time, and the prevention of this recurrence remains elusive. In a laboratory study, we explored whether having participants focus their attention on the present moment through guided instruction would reduce the recurrence of initial learning with the passage of time. All participants first learned a particular response to a cue before learning a new response. During testing, participants were presented with the cue and asked to provide a response. When tested immediately, participants provided the most recently learned response, but after a 16 min delay they also provided the initially learned response (i.e., spontaneous recovery). The focused-attention intervention significantly reduced the spontaneous recovery of the initial learning. This finding has theoretical value for research on therapeutic intervention.