Understanding Context-Dependent Attentional Bias to Threat in Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms
thesisposted on 01.08.2020, 00:00 by Elyse Renée Shenberger
Attentional bias to threat (AB) is a transdiagnostic deficit for many internalizing disorders including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The relationship between AB and PTS symptoms (PTSS) is robust and consistent throughout the literature, but it is unclear which specific AB is associated with PTSS. It is also possible that this relationship could be different when assessing AB during an aversive context and if the threatening stimuli that draw the attention is masked. This study used a masked dot-probe task to measure AB to angry faces in two independent samples—50 treatment-seeking participants, and a second independent sample of 98 trauma-exposed participants. Linear mixed effects models yielded an increased orienting AB in an aversive (relative to safe) context in both samples; however, PTSS did not moderate these effects in either sample. These results highlight the importance of assessing AB in varying contexts and in multiple samples of differing severity. Given prior research, these null results suggest that AB deficits in PTSD are likely due to later threat processing rather than early threat detection.