Attentional biases in dysphoria: An eye-tracking study of the allocation and disengagement of attention

Cognition and Emotion 24 (8):1349-1368 (2010)
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Abstract

This study looked for evidence of biases in the allocation and disengagement of attention in dysphoric individuals. Participants studied images for a recognition memory test while their eye fixations were tracked and recorded. Four image types were presented (depression-related, anxiety-related, positive, neutral) in each of two study conditions. For the simultaneous study condition, four images (one of each type) were presented simultaneously for 10 seconds, and the number of fixations and the total fixation time to each image was measured, similar to the procedure used by Eizenman et al. (2003) and Kellough, Beevers, Ellis, and Wells (2008). For the sequential study condition, four images (one of each type) were presented consecutively, each for 4 seconds; to measure disengagement of attention an endogenous cuing procedure was used (Posner, 1980). Dysphoric individuals spent significantly less time attending to positive images than non-dysphoric individuals, but there were no group differences in attention to depression-related images. There was also no evidence of a dysphoria-related bias in initial shifts of attention. With respect to the disengagement of attention, dysphoric individuals were slower to disengage their attention from depression-related images. The recognition memory data showed that dysphoric individuals had poorer memory for emotional images, but there was no evidence of a conventional mood-congruent memory bias. Differences in the attentional and memory biases observed in depressed and dysphoric individuals are discussed.

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