Individual differences in anxiety vulnerability: investigating the contribution of biased attentional engagement and biased attentional disengagement to anxiety reactivity and perseveration

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

228 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

[Truncated abstract] Three overarching aims were addressed by the current research program. In the first phase of investigation, the work sought to establish the validity of a hypothetical distinction between two facets of attentional bias that could in principle, independently contribute to variability in trait anxiety. In the second phase of investigation, it sought to establish the validity of a hypothetical distinction between two facets of anxiety vulnerability that could in principle, each make an independent contribution to variability in trait anxiety. The third and final phase of investigation tested the hypothesis that these two alternative facets of attentional selectivity are differentially associated with these two alternative facets of anxiety vulnerability. The first research phase was designed to determine if either, or both, biased attentional engagement with, and biased attentional disengagement from, negative information are independently associated with elevated levels of trait anxiety. Previous research has consistently found that individuals who are more vulnerable to experiencing anxious mood selectively attend to emotionally negative information relative to those with lower levels of anxiety vulnerability. Researchers more recently have investigated whether this attentional bias for negative information is due to initially distal negative information capturing selective attention, or initially proximal negative information holding attention. These two hypothetical facets of attentional bias have been termed engagement bias and disengagement bias respectively. It is argued in the present thesis that tasks previous employed with the objective of separately assessing these aspects of attentional selectivity have been compromised by methodological limitations that compromise their capacity to differentiate attentional engagement bias and attentional disengagement bias. The current research program introduced a novel methodological framework to enable the separate assessment of both of these forms of attentional bias. Two studies are conducted, in which this framework is used to create new variants of two tasks previously used to assess anxiety-linked attentional bias for negative information, the emotional Stroop task and the dot-probe task. The first of these studies failed to detect any anxiety-linked attentional bias, for reasons that are discussed in some detail. However, the second of these experiments served to demonstrate that biased attentional engagement with, and biased attentional disengagement from, negative information are both characteristic of elevated levels of anxiety vulnerability. Furthermore, they prove to be unrelated to one another, and each of these two facets of attentional selectivity made an independent contribution to variance in trait anxiety. The second phase of the research program was designed to determine whether individual differences in the vulnerability to readily experience the onset of anxiety symptoms, here termed anxiety reactivity, and individual differences in the vulnerability to experience persistence of anxiety symptoms, here termed anxiety perseveration, represent dissociable dimensions of anxiety vulnerability that independently contribute to variability in trait anxiety. Three studies were conducted in this research phase...
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Individual differences in anxiety vulnerability: investigating the contribution of biased attentional engagement and biased attentional disengagement to anxiety reactivity and perseveration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this