Associations between Fear of Negative Evaluation and Covert and Overt Attention Bias Through Eye-Tracking and Visual Dot Probe

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Virginia Tech

Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by irrational and persistent fears of potential evaluation and scrutiny by others. For socially anxious youth, the core, maladaptive cognition is fear of negative evaluation (FNE). Whereas Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) targets remediation of intense and unfounded FNE, Attention Bias Modification Treatment (ABMT) targets attention bias. The degree to which FNE and biased attention are related processes is unknown. This study sought to assess the relationship between FNE and two indices of attention bias (dot probe and eye-tracking). In addition, this study examines differences in attention bias between a clinically confirmed group of youth SAD and healthy controls. A significant group difference in average latency to fixate on angry faces was found [F(1,65) = 31.94, p < .001, ηp2 = .33]. However, the pattern was not consistent across the other attention bias metrics (i.e., dot probe bias scores and first fixation direction percentage towards angry faces). In addition, associations between FNE and the attention bias metrics were not statistically significant in either group. Future directions and implications of these findings within the context of refinements to existing interventions are discussed.

Social Anxiety Disorder, Attention Bias, Covert Attention, Overt Attention, Adolescents