Attention to feared stimuli is believed to facilitate the process of exposure-based fear reduction. However, researchers have disagreed about the importance of cognitive focus during exposure and empirical investigations have yielded inconsistent results. This study was an attempt to clarify the role of visual and cognitive attention to feared stimuli during exposure. Seventy-two spider-fearful participants focused visually on either a fear- relevant or irrelevant stimulus, while also focusing cognitively on either of these stimuli during a brief exposure session. Participants who processed fear-relevant information visually and cognitively showed the most efficient and greatest reduction on behavioral approach task ratings than the other three groups, whose patterns of reduction were highly similar. The group that focused on fear-relevant information in both modalities also reported a significantly greater degree of perceived fear reduction than the other three groups.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Psychology