Zoning out: Automatic and conscious attention biases are differentially related to dissociative and post-traumatic symptoms

Sarah Herzog, Wendy D'Andrea, Jonathan DePierro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Few studies of attention bias in traumatized samples directly compare automatic and conscious (e.g. supraliminal) attentional strategies. Additionally, research to-date indicates inconsistent evidence for threat-related attention bias in individuals with PTSD symptoms. This may be due to the heterogeneity in PTSD symptoms and concurrent dissociation, particularly derealization and depersonalization, since these may contribute to decreased awareness of, or slower responding to, threatening stimuli. Using an internet-based paradigm, the current study measured attention biases in a visual dot-probe task using rapid (250 ms), brief supraliminal (500 ms), and long-latency supraliminal (2000 ms) exposures. One hundred and forty-seven adult participants completed a range of trauma-related symptom measures. Results indicated a significant association between PTSD symptoms and bias toward threat in the 2000 ms exposure. Both state and trait derealization were significantly related to a bias away from threat at the 250 ms exposure, indicating a reflexive avoidance of rapidly presented threat cues. State measures of dissociation were also related to avoidance of threat in the 500 ms condition. Findings highlight the disparate effects of trauma-related symptoms on attention, and have significant clinical implications for dissociative symptoms as a target of treatment in traumatized samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-310
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume272
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Avoidance
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Dot-probe
  • PTSD
  • Threat

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