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Examining the time-course of vigilant and avoidant attentional biases in repressors: Testing the robustness of Vigilance-Avoidance Theory.

O’Shaughnessy, Natalie (2016) Examining the time-course of vigilant and avoidant attentional biases in repressors: Testing the robustness of Vigilance-Avoidance Theory. Leeds Beckett University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Repressors are a group of individuals characterised by a lack of cognitive awareness of their own elevations in physiology, in response to anxiety and stress. Due to this, repressors typically report lower levels of subjective distress via self-report measures, in conjunction with elevations in physiological responding (Myers, 2010). Resultantly, repressors are at an increased risk of developing a number of negative, stress-related illnesses (e.g. coronary heart disease and cancers, Myers, 2010). In an attempt to explain the discrepant responses of repressors Derakshan, Eysenck & Myers (2007), proposed the Vigilance-Avoidance Theory of Repressive Coping. The theory states, that repressors engage in initial rapid processing of threat stimuli which triggers their elevations in physiology. In the second stage that follows, repressors engage in avoidant attentional biases, inhibiting their conscious experience of stress or anxiety. The current study investigated the robustness of the theory as an explanation of repressive coping through the use of the dot-probe paradigm. Participants (N=68) completed a dot-probe task in which they were shown angry, fearful and neutral facial expressions for short (200ms) and long (2000ms) exposure durations. Unlike previous studies the current study used two alternative methods to define repressors; Weinberger, Schawartz and Davison’s (1979) method involving measures of trait-anxiety (STAI-trait, Speilberger, Gorsuch, Lushene & Vagg, 1983) and defensiveness (MC SDS, Crowne & Marlowe, 1960); as well as the Mainz Coping Inventory (MCI, Krohne et al., 2000). Results indicate that there were no significant effects of either fearful or angry faces, at either 200ms or 2000ms, on the attentional biases of repressors. These findings contradict the predications of vigilance-avoidance theory.

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