Shelley Flynn Thesis.pdf (1.7 MB)
Behavioural and neural correlates of orienting and executive control in high and low spider fear groups
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 14:05 authored by Flynn, SF
Research suggests that attentional bias to threat in specific fear can be demonstrated as facilitated orienting effects such as the rapid automatic detection and processing of threat-related information, and/or interference effects thought to be associated with impaired executive control processes such as the inhibition of task-irrelevant information. This study examined the influence of spider fear on the behavioural (RT and accuracy) and electrophysiological correlates (P1 and N1) of facilitated orienting and executive control. Twenty-six female participants (15 high-fear, 11 low-fear) completed a novel attentional networks test consisting of an alerting condition (present/absent), a pictorial (spider/cow) orienting cue (valid/invalid), and a central target flanked by distractors (congruent/incongruent). In relation to facilitated orienting, no between-group differences were observed, suggesting that greater levels of cognitive load increased interference effects, thus masking the facilitation effect for high-fear participants. Partial support for predictions of behavioural interference effects were observed. This finding was further supported by evidence of attenuated P1 and enhanced N1 amplitude for high-fear participants for incongruent targets preceded by spider images, however these effects were modulated by interactions between the attentional networks. This is a novel finding but is consistent with a complex and interactive attentional networks model.