Understanding and testing the mechanisms of negative expectancy effects

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Hannah Traynor


Paper 1, prepared according to guidelines for the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, is a systematic review of the literature exploring the relationship between negative expectancy effects and negative trait affect. A total of 18 articles satisfied inclusion criteria for the review. Studies were critically appraised and a narrative synthesis was used to make sense of the findings. The relationship between negative expectancy and negative affectivity was found to be highly variable across the studies. Several possible factors pertaining to this variability were explored, including methodological variations in the generation and reporting of negative expectancy effects. The findings are discussed in relation to theoretical models of expectancy, with suggestions for future direction of studies being made and clinical implications explored. Paper 2, prepared according to guidelines for The Journal of Pain, reports an experimental study which was conducted to explore the role of emotional focus on the magnitude of expectancy effects. Thirty-four healthy volunteers took part in an experimental task, involving a series of trials in which visual cues presented the likelihood of either receiving a low or high level of painful electrical stimulation. For some of the trials, the cues presented did not match the stimulation applied. Therefore, participants received levels of pain intensity that were unexpectedly higher (positive) or lower (negative) than anticipated. During this task, focus of attention was either directed to emotional state or sensory-perceptual information. Results showed that overall this cue- evoked paradigm was effective in manipulating expectancy. However, there were no significant differences in responses to negative expectancy effects observed between the emotion- and sensory-focused conditions. Several conclusions were drawn from these results and are discussed in relation to theories of expectancy and pain. Paper 3 is a critical reflection and considers additional issues that have arisen throughout Papers 1 and 2. The systematic review and empirical study are critically appraised and methodological, theoretical and clinical implications are discussed. Strengths and limitations of the presented research are discussed throughout.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2018