A Preliminary Investigation Into Whether Attentional Bias Influences Mood Outcomes Following Emotional Disclosure

Published in: International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, v. 17, no. 3, Sep. 2010. p. 195-206

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Kavita Vedhara, Heather Brant, Elias Adamopolous, Lucy Byrne-Davis, Bundy Mackintosh, Laura Hoppitt, Martin Tovee, Jeremy N. V. Miles, James W Pennebaker

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BACKGROUND: There is considerable interest in factors which may influence the efficacy of emotional disclosure. To date, a range of demographic and psychological variables have been considered. However, consideration has not yet been given to cognitive factors known to influence emotional processing such as attentional bias (AB). PURPOSE: We present the results from an exploratory study examining the role of AB in influencing mood outcomes following emotional disclosure. METHOD: Individuals with negative and avoidant ABs (i.e., individuals vigilant for and individuals avoidant of negative emotional material, respectively) were identified by asking 105 individuals to complete a standardized AB task. Individuals in the bottom quartile of AB scores were categorized as having a negative AB and individuals in the top quartile were categorized as having an avoidant AB. These participants (n=38) completed the emotional disclosure intervention and mood was assessed at 1, 4, and 8 weeks post-intervention. RESULTS: Negative AB individuals showed greater improvements in depression, anger, fatigue, and total mood disturbance. These results were unrelated to alexithymia. CONCLUSION: These results provide preliminary support for the proposal that AB may influence the effects of emotional disclosure on mood.

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