University of Tasmania
138125. Thesis.pdf (1.2 MB)

Hypervigilance and Disengagement Difficulties in Spider Fear: An Event-Related Potential Study

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posted on 2023-05-26, 04:23 authored by Johnstone, ASV
Hypervigilance to threat and difficulty disengaging attention from threat are features of attentional biases in anxiety. However, research has not investigated both of these biases in specific fear. This study investigated attentional biases in 13 females with high spider fear and 10 low-fear controls aged between 18-30 years. Participants completed a spatial cueing task with spider and cow images as cues appearing in either the same location (valid) or in the opposite location (invalid) as the following target requiring a button-press response. The hypotheses that high-fear participants would display hypervigilance through shorter reaction times and greater P1 amplitude to targets with valid-spider cues, and disengagement difficulties through greater reaction times and decreased P1 amplitude to targets with invalid-spider cues were not supported. Greater reaction times for all cues in high-fear participants were observed. High fear participants displayed similar P1 amplitude to all targets regardless of cue whereas low-fear controls displayed increased P1 amplitude to spider-cued targets. Findings were interpreted as two processes in high-fear participants; general hypervigilance, suggested by generally increased P1 amplitude, followed by interference in reactions to targets. The P1 amplitude displayed in the low-fear group may suggest an evolutionary mechanism. These results may suggest a focus on general hypervigilance in spider-fear treatment.


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  • Unpublished

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  • Open

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