Topic: Violence and abuse

Cognito: Examining the role of cognitive processes for long-term adjustment after trauma.

How a potentially traumatic event is interpreted can impact the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress reactions. However, the mechanisms involved are not fully understood. There is a need for more longitudinal studies on the dynamic relationship between thought patterns and trauma reactions over longer time periods. Furthermore, it is unclear how different types of trauma exposures are related to different types of thoughts, and how thoughts about alternative outcomes (counterfactual thinking) are related to psychological adjustment.

2021 This project is ongoing 2024

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Project Members

The primary objective of the Cognito project is to better understand the dynamic relationship between core cognitive processes and the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress symptoms.


We will examine the role of two key cognitive processes for psychological reactions such as symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety:

  • Maladaptive appraisals are negative thoughts about oneself, the world, and the future such as “anyone could hurt me” or “I will never be able to have normal feelings again”. Previous studies have found that maladaptive appraisals are highly related to psychological reactions after trauma.
  • Counterfactual thinking (CFT) are mental simulations of alternative outcomes of an event. It can involve thoughts about how a dangerous and frightening situation could have been avoided (upward CFT) or how the outcome could have been worse (downward CFT), and these thoughts can have different qualities regarding emotionality and vividness. Previous studies have found that such thoughts are frequent after trauma, and that they are related to posttraumatic stress reactions. 

 The Cognito project is a part of the Utøya Study. In this project, we use data from survivors after the terror attack at Utøya 22. July 2011, and from the Norwegian RCT-study on TF-CBT.

The PhD-project is financed by the DAM foundation and the Norwegian Centre of Violence and traumatic stress studies, in collaboration with the Norwegian Council for Mental Health.