Threat-related cues and contexts facilitate perceptual decision-making, yet it is unclear whether this threat-driven tuning of perceptual decision-making is modifiable by top-down attentional control. Since state and dispositional mindfulness are linked to improved attentional control, we examined whether these factors assist the use of prior knowledge to detect threatening stimuli.
Participants were randomly assigned to a brief mindfulness-based intervention (N = 32) or a physics lecture audio recording (N = 31) and then asked to perform a task in which they used threatening and neutral cues to discriminate between threatening and neutral faces.
Results showed that threatening cues led to faster and more sensitive perceptual decision-making, specifically for threatening faces. Furthermore, higher levels of dispositional mindfulness were associated with improved ability to use cues to discriminate between threatening and neutral stimuli in the group that underwent a brief mindfulness induction but not in the control group.
Our findings highlight how top-down attention-related dispositions and strategies can influence our ability to detect threats in our environment.