Does Stress Moderate the Relationship Between Borderline Features and Social Cognition?

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Individuals with borderline personality features experience disturbances in affect, cognition, and behavior (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). These disturbances can have negative outcomes such as emotion dysregulation, social maladjustment, and misinterpretation of social cues (Bagge et al., 2004; Putnam & Silk, 2005). Studies have found that individuals with borderline personality features often have deficits in social cognition when compared to individuals without borderline personality features (Schaffer, Barak, & Rassovsky, 2015). However, some conflicting studies have found that individuals with borderline personality features exhibit better social cognition in certain situations (Roepke, Vater, Preißler, Heekeren, Dziobek, 2013). Research also suggests that emotional context can influence the behavioral problems in individuals with borderline personality features, especially with negative emotional contexts such as stress (Chapman, Leung, & Lynch, 2008; Domes et al., 2006). The current study focuses on the effect of perceived stress as a moderator on the relationship between borderline personality features and the accuracy of social cognition to better understand these inconsistencies. Participants included 44 undergraduate students and community members (65.9% female) recruited for a larger study on stress and interpersonal behavior. All participants completed an informed consent form followed by self-report measures including the Personality Assessment Inventory-Borderline Features Scale (PAI BOR; Morey, 1991), the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen et al., 1983). Finally, all participants completed the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC; Dziobek et al., 2006). To examine whether perceived stress moderated the relationship between borderline personality features and social cognition, we conducted a moderation analysis using Hayes' PROCESS module for SPSS (Hayes, 2018). The findings indicate there was not a significant interaction between borderline personality features and perceived stress predicting accuracy in social cognition (R2 = .09, F(3,40) = 1.37 p = .267, t(43) = -1.97, p = .056). Furthermore, borderline features (t(43) = 1.88, p = .067) and perceived stress (t(43) = 1.89, p = .067) were not associated with accuracy in social cognition. Although the current findings are not significant, they do indicate a trend for perceived stress as a potential moderator of the influence of borderline personality features on the accuracy of social perception. Data collection is ongoing to further clarify the relationship between borderline features, stress, and interpersonal behavior.

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Sara Lowmaster

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