Neuroticism and the Attentional Mediation of Dysregulatory Psychopathology

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Neuroticism emerges consistently as a fundamental trait in factor-analytic studies of personality and temperament, and its association with diverse forms of psychopathology has been demonstrated repeatedly. Hence, elucidating the nature of neuroticism would be expected to advance understanding of the psychobiological processes contributing to psychopathology. In contrast to formulations that regard neuroticism as a predisposition to negative affect primarily, we emphasize neuroticism's effects on cognition. Specifically, we propose that (a) neuroticism is associated with facilitation of the automatic orienting of attention, (b) this attentional process may adversely affect one's ability to engage in the controlled evaluation and correction of problematic cognitive and behavioral response tendencies, and (c) negative affect and psychopathology associated with neuroticism result from the disruption of these evaluative and corrective processes.

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