Year

2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Psychology

Abstract

The association between attentional bias for threat (ABT) and anxiety has conventionally been studied from the information-processing approach, via research traditions adapted from the field of cognitive psychology. While ABT is thought to play a causal role in anxiety, the tendency to orient more quickly to negative compared to neutral stimuli can also represent an adaptive habit which facilitates survival by preparing the organism to respond swiftly to danger. The latter notion bears implications for the design of research on the ABT-anxiety link which are not well reflected within the information- processing approach. Specifically, given the adaptive aspects of ABT, the pathway between ABT is not likely to be direct, nor does the expression of ABT unmask underlying anxiety in all instances. However, led by the dominant information-processing approach, a significant proportion of studies on the ABT-anxiety link has focused on characterizing ABT in anxiety via methodologically rigorous experimental paradigms, where ABT is investigated as an isolated process involved in anxiety. The present thesis sought to study the ABT-anxiety link in the context of a research program extending from that of the information-processing approach, specifically one where the adaptive aspects of ABT are taken on board in study design by considering ABT as an indirect or component predictor of anxiety. The end goal was to identify theoretically-relevant mediators and/or moderators of the ABT-anxiety link which may ultimately serve to refine the design of attentional bias modification programs, in which significant effort has been invested in the search for novel ways to treat and prevent anxiety.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.