- Selective processing of threatening information: effects of attachment representation and anxiety disorder on attention and memory
- Development and Psychopathology
- Volume | Issue number
- 15 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
To investigate the effect of the mental representation of attachment on information processing, 28 anxiety disorder outpatients, as diagnosed by the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule?Revised, were administered the Adult Attachment Interview and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. They also completed an emotional Stroop task with subliminal and supraliminal exposure conditions, a free recall memory task, and a recognition test. All tasks contained threatening, neutral, and positively valenced stimuli. A nonclinical comparison group of 56 participants completed the same measures. Results on the Stroop task showed color-naming interference for threatening words in the supraliminal condition only. Nonclinical participants with insecure attachment representations showed a global response inhibition to the Stroop task. Clinical participants with secure attachment representations showed the largest Stroop interference of the threatening words compared to the other groups. Results on the free recall task showed superior recall of all types of stimuli by participants with secure attachment representations. In the outpatient group, participants with secure attachment representations showed superior recall of threatening words on the free recall task, compared to insecure participants. Results on the recognition task showed no differences between attachment groups. We conclude that secure attachment representations are characterized by open communication about and processing of threatening information, leading to less defensive exclusion of negative material during the attentional stage of information processing and to better recall of threatening information in a later stage. Attachment insecurity, but not the type of insecurity, seems a decisive factor in attention and memory processes.
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