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25-05-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2017

Cognitive Therapy and Research 6/2017

An Eye-Tracking Examination of Emotion Regulation, Attentional Bias, and Pupillary Response to Threat Stimuli

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 6/2017
Joseph R. Bardeen, Thomas A. Daniel


In the present study, we examined constructs of emotion regulation (emotion regulation difficulties, expressive suppression, and cognitive reappraisal) in relation to attentional bias to threat (ABT). Participants (N = 176) completed a battery of self-report measures and an eye-tracking task in which eye movements to neutral and threat images were recorded. Dwell time on threat was examined across six 500 ms intervals for each trial. We also examined pupillary response as a measure of emotional arousal. When accounting for cognitive reappraisal and emotion regulation difficulties, expressive suppression significantly predicted both ABT (from 1500–3000 ms) and pupillary response to threat. However, the effect of expression suppression on ABT was significant only at lower levels of cognitive reappraisal. Emotion regulation difficulties did not significantly predict ABT or pupillary response. Findings suggest that those who use expressive suppression to the exclusion of other regulatory strategies may be at particularly high risk for ABT and relatively higher levels of threat-related emotional arousal. Clinical implications, as well as results of an exploratory analysis examining dimensions of emotion regulation difficulties as they relate to ABT and pupillary response, will be discussed.

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