Publication Date

2013-12-18

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2013-12-18

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2013-11-19

First Committee Member

Kiara R. Timpano

Second Committee Member

Jennifer C. Britton

Third Committee Member

Blaine Fowers

Abstract

Research across the past two decades has identified attentional biases (AB) to threat as a cognitive vulnerability factor for social anxiety symptoms. However, much remains unknown regarding the nature of the association between AB and other key physiological and cognitive maintenance factors proposed by the cognitive-behavioral model of social anxiety. The current study investigated the relationship between AB to threat and emotional, physiological and cognitive responding to a social stressor in an undergraduate sample (N = 55) using eyetracking methodology. Findings revealed a significant positive association between AB-disgust and subjective emotional reactivity (SER). Furthermore, ABdisgust had a significant indirect effect on post-event processing (PEP) via SER. Results also demonstrated that SER and subjective emotional recovery significantly predicted PEP. Hypothesized links between AB-disgust and the remaining variables considered, including subjective emotional recovery, physiological reactivity and recovery, and PEP, were not supported. Results extend previous research by demonstrating that the preconscious process AB to threat, directly impacts emotional responding to a social situation, and indirectly influences downstream cognitive processes. Research and clinical implications are discussed.

Keywords

attentional bias; social anxiety; emotional arousal; post-event processing; eye tracking

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