Anxiety-linked attentional bias and its modification: Illustrating the importance of distinguishing processes and procedures in experimental psychopathology research

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Abstract

© 2016 Elsevier Ltd
In this review of research concerning anxiety-linked attentional bias, we seek to illustrate a general principle that we contend applies across the breadth of experimental psychopathology. Specifically, we highlight how maintenance of a clear distinction between process and procedure serves to enhance the advancement of knowledge and understanding, while failure to maintain this distinction can foster confusion and misconception. We show how such clear differentiation has permitted the continuous refinement of assessment procedures, in ways that have led to growing confidence in the existence of the putative attentional bias process of interest, and also increasing understanding of its nature. In contrast, we show how a failure to consistently differentiate between process and procedure has contributed to confusion concerning whether or not attentional bias modification reliably alters anxiety vulnerability and dysfunction. As we demonstrate, such confusion can be avoided by distinguishing the process of attentional bias modification from the procedures that have been employed with the intention of evoking this target process. Such an approach reveals that procedures adopted with the intention of eliciting the attentional bias modification process do not always do so, but that successful evocation of the attentional bias modification process quite reliably alters anxiety symptomatology. We consider some of the specific implications for future research concerning attentional bias modification, while also pointing to the broader implications for experimental psychopathology research in general.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-86
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume86
Early online date19 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

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