Attentional bias and specific fear: illuminating the casual nature of their association and evaluating the potential therapeutic implications using an attention bias modification approach

Alea Losch

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated] A distinction can be drawn between the disposition to experiencing anxiety in general (i.e. general anxiety vulnerability) to the disposition to experiencing anxiety in response to specific stimuli (i.e. specific fears). Elevated levels of these two types of anxious disposition are characterised by increased attentional bias to threat and to specific fear stimuli, respectively. While selective attentional responding to threat causally contributes to variation in general anxiety vulnerability, it has not yet been established whether selective attention to fear stimuli causally contributes to specific fear. Relatedly, while it has been shown that attenuating selective attention to threat has the therapeutic benefit of attenuating dysfunctional anxious symptomatology in people with general anxiety vulnerability, it is unclear whether attenuating selective attention to fear stimuli has the therapeutic benefit of attenuating dysfunctional anxious symptomatology in people with specific fears. The present research program was designed to address these two issues, by investigating i. whether individual differences in selective attentional responding to fear stimuli causally contributes to variation in behavioural and affective aspects of specific fear symptomatology (which became the first key objective of the present research program) and ii. whether attenuating selective attention to fear stimuli serves to therapeutically attenuate the specific fear symptomatology exhibited by high fearful individuals (which became the second key objective of the present research program).
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctorate
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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