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Attentional Control and Estimation of the Probability of Positive and Negative Events

Booth, Robert W., Sharma, Dinkar (2020) Attentional Control and Estimation of the Probability of Positive and Negative Events. Cognition and Emotion, 34 (3). pp. 553-567. ISSN 0269-9931. (doi:10.1080/02699931.2019.1657382) (KAR id:76083)

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People high in negative affect tend to think negative events are more likely than positive events (“probability bias”). Studies have found that weak attentional control exaggerates another negative affect-related cognitive bias – attentional bias – but it is not clear why this might be. We therefore wanted to know whether weak attentional control would be related to probability bias too. Four studies, with predominantly female student samples (N = 857), revealed correlations of around −.38 between attentional control and probability bias. This remained significant when trait anxiety and depression were controlled; there were no interactions between attentional control and negative affect. Studies 3 and 4 found that attentional control’s relationship with probability bias was partly mediated by emotion regulation ability. These results suggest attentional control is important for regulating affect-related cognitive biases, and for emotion regulation in general. Furthermore, because cognitive biases are thought to be important for maintaining emotional disorders, these results are also consistent with weak attentional control being a risk factor for these disorders.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/02699931.2019.1657382
Uncontrolled keywords: Probability bias, attentional control, trait anxiety, depression, negative affect
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Dinkar Sharma
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2019 09:41 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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