Attention Training Through Gaze-Contingent Feedback: Effects on Reappraisal and Negative Emotions

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Abstract

Reappraisal is central to emotion regulation but its mechanisms are unclear. This study tested the theoretical prediction that emotional attention bias is linked to reappraisal of negative emotion-eliciting stimuli and subsequent emotional responding using a novel attentional control training. Thirty-six undergraduates were randomly assigned to either the control or the attention training condition and were provided with different task instructions while they performed an interpretation task. Whereas control participants freely created interpretations, participants in the training condition were instructed to allocate attention toward positive words to efficiently create positive interpretations (i.e., recruiting attentional control) while they were provided with gaze-contingent feedback on their viewing behavior. Transfer to attention bias and reappraisal success was evaluated using a dot-probe task and an emotion regulation task which were administered before and after the training. The training condition was effective at increasing attentional control and resulted in beneficial effects on the transfer tasks. Analyses supported a serial indirect effect with larger attentional control acquisition in the training condition leading to negative attention bias reduction, in turn predicting greater reappraisal success which reduced negative emotions. Our results indicate that attentional mechanisms influence the use of reappraisal strategies and its impact on negative emotions. The novel attention training highlights the importance of tailored feedback to train attentional control. The findings provide an important step toward personalized delivery of attention training.

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