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An elicitation of attentional bias towards facial disfigurement using a visual dot probe task

Harlow, Emma (2010) An elicitation of attentional bias towards facial disfigurement using a visual dot probe task. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)


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Recent research has argued that the unfavourable treatment that people with facial disfigurements experience has emerged from an evolved motivation to avoid contagious disease. Humans have varying concerns about their vulnerability to disease which can be measured using the Perceived Vulnerability to Disease (PVD) Questionnaire. Yet little is known about basic perceptual and cognitive responses to disfigurement. The aim of this study was to use the PVD questionnaire and a dot probe task, containing real disfigured and non-disfigured faces, to investigate whether people high in PVD have an attentional bias towards disfigured faces. The results from the participants (N=51), suggested that those high in PVD did not have a faster reaction time when the dot probe was congruent (replaced a disfigured face) to when it was incongruent (replaced a non disfigured face). Furthermore there was no significant difference between those high and low in PVD reaction times when the dot probe was congruent and incongruent. It was concluded that facial disfigurement did not cause people to shift their attention towards it, even in those with relatively high PVD. The implications of the results for people with and without facial disfigurements are discussed, and possible limitations and further studies are suggested.

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