Fear level and the generalization of attentional bias beyond fear-relevant animals

Destro, Jessie (2012). Fear level and the generalization of attentional bias beyond fear-relevant animals Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Destro, Jessie
Thesis Title Fear level and the generalization of attentional bias beyond fear-relevant animals
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-10-10
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Ottmar Lipp
Total pages 85
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary Fear and anxiety are two similar but distinct states designed to prepare the body to react to threat. From a clinical perspective, fear and anxiety become problematic when triggered by non-threatening stimuli. The tendency to over-generalize fear and anxiety responses has long been implicated within the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders and is a defining feature of a number of anxiety disorders such as PTSD, panic disorder, and specific phobia. Despite this, generalization has received little attention within human anxiety research and has predominantly been investigated in PTSD and PD using discriminative conditioning paradigms. As such, it is currently unknown whether generalization is observable in other anxiety disorders, whether the extent of generalization differs depending on the focus of individuals’ anxiety, and whether generalization is observable within attentional paradigms. Recent research has suggested that generalization also occurs within attentional biases in specific phobias. We aimed to extend the findings of a recent EEG study that examined attentional biases towards pictures of snakes and spiders and worms and beetles within a visual search and dot probe paradigm. We found no evidence of generalization and no effects of self-reported fear or anxiety. Overall, our findings do not support the preferential detection of snakes but do support the preferential detection of spiders. Our overall pattern of findings is consistent with recent studies that have suggested that the attentional effects associated with fear-relevance reflect disgust sensitivity rather than fear. Future studies should aim to examine whether these effects are also observable in intermixed versions of the same-different task.
Keyword Fear level
Generalization of attentional bias

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Created: Mon, 25 Feb 2013, 09:24:11 EST by Mrs Ann Lee on behalf of School of Psychology