Are attention bias and interpretation bias reflections of a single common mechanism or multiple independent mechanisms?

Marilyn Fitzgerald

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

There is abundant evidence of anxiety-linked threat-biased attention and anxiety-linked threat-biased interpretation (cf. Mathews & MacLeod, 1994, 2005). The present research aimed to determine whether these cognitive biases reflect a single common underlying mechanism (the Common Mechanism Account) or multiple independent underlying mechanisms (the Independent Mechanisms Account). To address this question, a battery of eight experimental tasks was developed; four tasks measured attention bias and four measured interpretation bias. Participants with different levels of trait anxiety, completed pairs of these tasks. The pattern of associations amongst all eight tasks was compared with the pattern of associations between the four tasks that measured attention bias and the pattern of associations between the four tasks that measured interpretation bias. Both Accounts predicted strong associations between the four tasks that measured attention bias, and between the four tasks that measured interpretation bias. However, the Common Mechanism Account predicted generally strong associations between all of the eight tasks, that were equivalent in strength to the associations between tasks measuring attention bias and to the associations between tasks measuring interpretation bias. In contrast, the Independent Mechanisms Account predicted weaker associations between all of the eight tasks than the associations either between the tasks measuring attention bias or between the tasks measuring interpretation bias. The obtained pattern of associations between internally reliable measures of anxiety-linked attention bias and anxiety-linked interpretation bias failed to support the Common Mechanism Account, but rather was consistent with the predictions of the Independent Mechanisms Account. Theoretical and applied implications of the results are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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