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Psychologists develop 2 potent new predictors of suicide risk
Date:7/28/2010

th follow-up suicide attempts above and beyond well-known risk factors such as a history of suicide attempts, patients' reported likelihood of attempt, and clinicians' predictions regarding patients' likelihood of attempt," says co-author Christine B. Cha, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard.

A second study adapted the Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard psychologist Mahzarin R. Banaji, using reaction times to semantic stimuli to measure 157 subjects' automatic mental associations -- in this case, the strength of associations between words related to "self" and words related to either "life" or "death/suicide." Participants were shown pairs of words on a screen, with response speed revealing unconscious associations between the terms. For instance, a rapid response to stimuli associating self with death/suicide suggests a strong unconscious association between the two.

Nock and his colleagues found that those participants with strong associations between self and death/suicide were six times more likely to attempt suicide within the next six months than those holding stronger associations between self and life.

"These findings suggest that a person's implicit cognition may guide which behavior he or she chooses to cope with extreme distress," Nock says. "More specifically, an implicit association with death/suicide may represent one of the final steps in the pathway to suicide."


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Contact: Steve Bradt
steve_bradt@harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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