Previous research has supported theoretical claims that dichotomous thinking may be a risk factor for suicide. However, the concept of dichotomous thinking is vague, and thus far, no measures of it have been developed. This study developed a coding scheme useful on Thematic Aperception Test (TAT; Murray, 1943) protocols and applicable to other verbal productions to refine the concept of dichotomous thinking and to assess its utility as a predictor of suicidality. Suicidal patients had a significantly elevated rate of a narrowly defined type of dichotomous thinking involving diametric or polarized possibilities. However, suicidal and nonsuicidal patients did not differ on weaker forms of dichotomous thinking involving nonexclusive or nonbinary alternatives. Suicidal patients produced shorter TAT stories than nonsuicidal patients, supporting other findings in the literature that suicidal patients tend to be cognitively and affectively "shut down." Traditionally designated "suicide cards" also yielded shorter stories but did not elicit higher rates of dichotomous thinking.
PMID: 9933942 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]