Johanna Hepp, Lisa M. Störkel, Pascal J. Kieslich, Christian Schmahl, Inga Niedtfeld
Negative evaluation of individuals with borderline personality disorder at zero acquaintance

Behaviour Research and Therapy, 2018: 111, pp. 84–91
ISSN: 0005-7967

Previous research suggests that individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) tend to evaluate other people as untrustworthy or hostile, which could contribute to the marked interpersonal problems in BPD. In contrast, alterations in first impressions of potential interaction partners of those with BPD remain under-researched and poorly understood. Herein, we focused on how naïve raters evaluate BPD individuals, hypothesizing that raters would tend to evaluate them negatively. To test this hypothesis, we recruited 26 BPD and 26 healthy control participants (46% male) as targets in the ‘Thin Slices’ paradigm. Targets were video-taped while talking about their personal preferences (e.g. hobbies). Subsequently, these short videos (‘Thin Slices’) were presented to two rater samples (n = 92 and n = 44), who evaluated targets' likeability, trustworthiness, and cooperative behavior in an economic game. In both studies, raters evaluated BPD targets as less likeable and trustworthy, and in one study also as less cooperative. These findings are contrasted with results from an economic game, in which BPD targets behaved no less cooperatively than controls. We discuss limitations with regard to socioeconomic differences between the target groups and explore how negative evaluations by others may contribute to the interpersonal difficulties in BPD. We suggest that - given future replication with more strictly matched target groups- interventions aimed at improving impression management could be beneficial for BPD patients.