Previous studies have revealed that attentional bias toward aversive stimuli may play a causal role in the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders. This pilot study designed an experiment, using eye tracking, to capture gaze patterns individuals may display during a fear habituation trial. Three trials were conducted with twenty-eight subjects who reported aversion to insects. Pictures of cockroaches were used as aversive stimuli. The time proportion of the total visit duration and average visit duration toward aversive stimuli were analyzed using a mixed ANOVA, with three habituation trials and four self-report on fear level scores as within-participants factors. Across trials, the time proportion of total visit duration was relatively low when fear levels were high, and increased when fear levels decreased. Across trials, the average visit duration was short when fear levels were relatively high, and the average visit duration became relatively long as fear levels decreased. The results indicated that higher fear levels during exposure are likely to lead to attentional avoidance which might be a strategic effortful coping process (Eysenck, et al. 2007). This study is an crucial first step toward understanding the gaze patterns that fearful individuals may display during exposure trials. Using eye tracking technology, we objectively identified these gaze patterns and opened avenues to enhance the efficacy of exposure-based interventions tailored to address phobias.
Takahashi, M., Kikuchi, M., Yamamoto, J. I., & Hirai, M. (2023). Gaze and avoidant patterns of visual attention to aversive stimuli during fear habituation trial: A pilot eye tracking study. Journal of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy, 33(4), 227-235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbct.2023.10.004
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Journal of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy
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