Mechanisms of attention for cues associated with rewarding and aversive outcomes

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Austin, Alison J. (2010)
  • Subject: QZ
    mesheuropmc: education | humanities | health care economics and organizations

Attentional biases arising from classical conditioning processes may contribute to the maintenance of drug addictions and anxiety disorders. This thesis examined whether attentional mechanisms for conditioned stimuli (CS) would be dominated by affective properties (Lang, Greenwald, Bradley, & Hamm, 1993), or the uncertainty of the stimulus in predicting the outcome (Pearce & Hall, 1980). In chapter one affective and uncertainty-driven mechanisms of attention are discussed in relation to rewarding and aversive outcomes. In experimental chapter 2 methodological issues are addressed. In experimental\ud chapters three and four attentional mechanisms are tested using a discriminative conditioning procedure with visual stimuli of varying predictive certainty (CS+,CS+/-,CS-)\ud for a monetary or noise outcome (US). Attention was measured using an eye-tracker, and emotional conditioning and learning were measured using Likert scales. It was found that attention was mediated by uncertainty (chapter 3), but increasing the intensity of the outcome switched attention to affective-driven mechanisms for the noise outcome (chapter 4). In a further experiment this effect on attention remained for the noise outcome even\ud under conditions promoting uncertainty-driven mechanisms (chapter 6). When cigarettes were the unconditioned stimuli instead of money in the appetitive conditioning, attention was also mediated by stimulus affect (chapter 5). In chapter 7 the data are discussed and it is concluded that when the outcome is highly emotionally salient, affective-driven mechanisms of attention dominate over uncertainty.
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