Date of Award

8-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Gilbert, David

Abstract

Attentional biases to threat-related stimuli is an established characteristic of anxiety and depressive traits and disorders using several experimental paradigms; however, the conditions during which these biases are exhibited are not well characterized. In the current study, the temporal course of participants' (N = 96) attentional bias toward and away from simultaneously presented emotionally positive and negative images for 3000 ms was collected with an eye-tracking system that provided a continuous assessment of eye-gaze. Eye-gaze bias was analyzed by time segments derived from both theory and principal component analyses for levels of trait anxiety, depression, and endophenotypes. I hypothesized that high-trait anxiety would initially orient attention to the negative image and subsequently avoid the negative image (vigilance-avoidance pattern) while high-trait depression would sustain attention on the negative image. All participants demonstrated a vigilance-avoidance eye-gaze pattern regardless of trait level. However, those high in anxiety or depression exhibited greater threat avoidance.

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