Date of Award

8-1-2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kertz, Sarah

Second Advisor

Habib, Reza

Abstract

Selective attention to dysphoric stimuli is hypothesized to contribute to the onset and maintenance of emotional disorders. Over the past two decades, research on training and modifying attention as a form of treatment for anxiety and depression, Attentional Bias Modification (ABM) treatment, has increased exponentially. ABM has been employed in research and clinical settings with varying levels of success due to vast heterogeneity among studies. The primary aims of the present study were to examine the effects of different training contingencies, stimulus pairs, and moderators (baseline attentional bias, self-report trait anxiety, and attentional control) on stress reactivity and recovery. Undergraduates (N = 376) were randomly assigned to one of five conditions: four attention conditions each unique in training contingency and stimulus pair, and one control condition. Participants completed self-report measures, a pre-assessment of attention, one of the five conditions, a post-assessment of attention, and a stress induction. Results suggest stimulus types in AMB paradigms have a greater impact on stress responses relative to training contingencies. Participants with high levels of anxiety showed reduced stress recovery after conditions with negative stimuli. Participants with high levels of depression showed less stress reactivity after conditions with emotional stimuli. Attentional control and trait anxiety moderated stress responses. The current findings may be important in advancing ABM treatment by highlighting the significance of including emotional stimuli in ABM paradigms and tailoring treatment with baseline characteristics.

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