FB Kolloquium 2023: Elinor Abado

„The Influence of Expectancy and Context on Attention Biases in Specific Fears”


21. Juni 2023 16:15 – 21. Juni 2023 17:45
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Gutenbergstr.18, Dekanatssaal

Elinor Abado, University of Haifa, Israel
„The Influence of Expectancy and Context on Attention Biases in Specific Fears”

Cognitive biases are believed to play an important role in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Although there are many various types of cognitive biases, attention bias specifically has been studied extensively, often without taking into consideration its interactions with other biases. In this talk, I will present a series of studies which focus on the interaction between expectancies and attention bias toward threat in specific fears, such as fear of spiders and fear of injections. Specifically, the present studies involve a manipulation of a-priori expectancies, in which participants are informed of the likelihood of encountering a certain deviant picture in a subsequent visual search array. Using the array, we measure attention toward threatening vs. neutral pictures. Overall, participants with low as well as high levels of fear of spiders and injections present attention bias toward spiders and injections, respectively. The same attention bias does not seem to extend to ontogenetic threatening stimuli, such as guns. Importantly, fear of spiders correlated with the time it took participants to detect the neutral deviant, suggesting that fear may be characterized by a checking activity. Our recent ERP study revealed that the prioritization of spiders begins at the cue level (measured using the CNV component) and lasts until late processing of the target (measured using the EPN and LPP components). Overall, our findings suggest a robust attention bias toward phylogenetic threat, which can be affected by various cognitive and emotional contexts. Theoretical and clinical implications will be discussed, as well as current and future directions.


Elinor Abado