Framing Effects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Depression on Perceptions of Believability, Acceptability, and Credibility

Saba Salimuddin, Shadi Beshai, Adam Iskric, Lisa Watson

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


    While CBT is an effective treatment for depression, uptake can be low. This is largely due to attitudinal barriers. Accordingly, the goals of the current investigation were to (a) tailor and develop persuasive psychoeducational materials to match dominant cultural beliefs about the causes of depression and (b) examine the effectiveness of tailored CBT descriptions in improving CBT perceptions. We examined the believability of CBT mechanisms by invoking commonly endorsed etiological models of depression and investigated whether tailoring CBT descriptions to match etiological beliefs about depression influences perceptions of CBT. Participants were recruited using TurkPrime. In Study 1, participants (n = 425) read a CBT description that was generic or framed to match an etiological model of depression (biological, stress/environmental, or relationship/interpersonal). The participants indicated believability of each model as adopted by CBT. In study 2, the participants (n = 449) selected what they believed was the most important cause of depression. Subsequently, the participants were randomised to receive either a CBT description tailored to their endorsed model or a generic CBT description, and they provided ratings for CBT’s acceptability, credibility, and expectancy. In Study 1, the believability of biological CBT mechanisms was low across conditions, but participants reported greater believability when receiving a biological description than when receiving other mechanistic descriptions. Participants who received the stress- and relationship-focused descriptions did not rate the respective models as more believable than those who received a generic description. In study 2, there were no differences in the perceptions of acceptability, credibility and expectancy between participants who received a tailored description and those who received a generic description. Our findings suggest that CBT is believed to be a psychologically appropriate treatment; however, the believability of biological mechanisms is improved by presenting a biology-focused description.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number6330
    JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
    Issue number14
    Publication statusPublished - Jul. 2023


    • health communication
    • mental health literacy
    • tailored messaging


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