The modification of attentional bias to emotion-related words using the unilateral hand contraction method

  • Francesca Walsh

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Substantial evidence shows that attentional bias towards threat plays a fundamental role in anxiety and that deficits in frontal brain functioning might explain this. However, a paucity of research on anger related attentional bias leaves unanswered questions about whether similar mechanisms underpin aggression. This has led to a lack of theoretical explanations for anger related attentional bias and effective interventions to reduce anger. Electroencephalographic (EEG) evidence suggests that the hemispheric specialisation of the frontal brain predicts differential responding to emotional stimuli in anger and anxiety. Manipulating motivational direction, via unilateral hand contractions (UHCs), provides a means to explore the causal relationship between anger and attentional bias to threat. Previously, this method has only been used to change experiential and expressional aspects of emotion and its effectiveness in modulating attentional components of emotion regulation are unknown. Therefore, this Thesis aims to explore whether UHCs effectively modulate attentional bias to threat in relation to, and independent of trait anger. It also aims to discover the underlying neural effects of the UHC method to examine whether threat-related attentional changes reflect modulations in cognitive control and/or approach motivation. Finally, this Thesis aims to bridge the gap between the attentional bias and frontal brain asymmetry literature. These aims will be addressed by employing Emotional Stroop and Dot Probe paradigms as well as event related potentials measures. The findings provide evidence that UHCs provides an effective technique to modulate attentional bias to threat. Specifically, RHCs reduce attentional bias to threat independent of trait anger and in individuals with low trait anger but they do not modify attentional bias to threat in high anger individuals. In contrast, LHCs increase attentional bias to threat and this reduced task relevant processing, independent of trait anger. The implications of these novel findings and future directions of research are discussed.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorRebecca Jenks (Supervisor)


    • Laterality

    Cite this