Date of Graduation

8-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Lindsay S. Ham

Committee Member

Matthew T. Feldner

Second Committee Member

William H. Levine

Keywords

Psychology; Alcohol consumption; Attention bias; Avoidance-coping cognitive model; Information processing; Social anxiety

Abstract

The Avoidance-Coping Cognitive model (Bacon & Ham, 2010) proposed that Socially anxious individuals may be particularly vulnerable to the anxiolytic effects of alcohol through reductions in attention biases to Social threat. Elements of this model and were tested in the present study, in which undergraduate volunteers (N = 41, 27% female) completed two dot probe tasks with photographs of angry, happy, and neutral facial expressions. Participants were randomized to either consume a moderate dose of alcohol (target BAC 0.06%) or a non-alcohol control beverage between the two dot probe tasks. Results indicated no evidence of a bias in attention to angry faces prior to beverage consumption in the overall sample, though a subset of individuals high in Social anxiety showed a bias away from angry faces at 175ms and toward angry faces at 600ms. Following beverage consumption, those in the alcohol condition showed a bias toward emotional expressions overall at 600ms. Comparison with pre-beverage attention scores suggest that alcohol consumption resulted in increased attention toward happy faces, with no changes in attention to angry faces. Additionally, investigation into properties of the dot probe measure with this data revealed poor reliability and validity. Implications for the Avoidance-Coping Cognitive model and future directions are discussed.

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