ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 5, Issue 1, 38-51, 2014
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Is Selective Attention in Anxiety Characterised by Biased Attentional Engagement with or Disengagement from Threat: Evidence from a Colour-Naming Paradigm

Authors
Patrick J. F. Clarke, Sue Hart, and Colin MacLeod
Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion, Australian Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia

Volume 5, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 38-51
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5127/jep.032912

Abstract
There has been considerable recent interest in identifying which specific processes characterize the widely observed anxiety-linked attentional preference for negative information. Two tasks, the emotional Stroop and the attentional probe, have been consistently employed to assess selective attention. However, until now, research designed to distinguished biased attentional engagement with, and disengagement from negative information has almost exclusively employed attentional probe task variants. To identify which of these attentional processes underpin the traditional emotional Stroop effect we developed a variant of the emotional Stroop capable of differentiating these two aspects of attentional selectivity. To assess biased attentional engagement with emotional word meanings, trials required participants to process the colour of a letter string before then measuring their speed to switch attention to its semantic content. To assess biased attentional disengagement from emotional word meanings, trials required participants to process the semantic content of a letter string before then measuring their speed to switch attention to process its colour. Our results indicate that the pattern of effects observed on the traditional emotional Stroop task are likely due to enhanced attentional engagement with the semantic content of negative stimuli, but not by impaired attentional disengagement from such negative semantic content.

Table of Contents
Introduction
Method
 Participants
 Materials
  Emotional assessment measure.
  Stimuli.
  Experimental hardware.
  Experimental task.
 Procedure
Results
 Participant Characteristics at Test Time
 Assessment of Anxiety-linked Bias in Attentional Engagement
 Assessment of Anxiety-linked Bias in Attentional Disengagement
Discussion
Acknowledgements
References

Correspondence to
Patrick Clarke, Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia, CRAWLEY, WA 6009.

Keywords
biased attention, anxiety, attentional engagement, attentional disengagement, emotional Stroop

Dates
Received 23 Oct 2012; Revised 27 May 2013; Accepted 29 Jun 2013; In Press 16 Oct 2013







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