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Stress and selective attention : the impact of a stressful challenge on mood, cortisol, and the processing of emotional information

Title:

Stress and selective attention : the impact of a stressful challenge on mood, cortisol, and the processing of emotional information

Ellenbogen, Mark A (2000) Stress and selective attention : the impact of a stressful challenge on mood, cortisol, and the processing of emotional information. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The studies presented in this thesis were designed to examine the unfolding of events when an individual is faced with a stressful challenge, by monitoring subjective mood, attention to emotional stimuli, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) response to stress. It was hypothesized that participants would selectively attend to negative words (study 1) and pictures (study 2) following an aversive stressful experience, and that the attentional response to stress would mediate mood and HPA reactivity. Stress induction was achieved by means of a competitive Stroop task with monetary rewards where participants either repeatedly lost (negative stressor) or won (positive stressor) against a confederate. Participants then performed a spatial cueing task assessing attentional shifts towards and away from emotional and neutral stimuli. The results of these studies can be summarized by three major findings. Contrary to predictions, participants selectively avoided negatively-valenced pictures and words. This attentional avoidance response was associated with effective emotional and HPA regulation, suggesting that avoidance in this context may be adaptive as a coping response to stress. Second, stress-induced changes in processing efficiency or alertness, resulting in a wide-scope and flexible attentional style, were also observed, and this too may facilitate adaptive coping. Finally, participants with mild symptoms of depression and anxiety exhibited different patterns of response to stress than euthymic subjects, several characteristics of which may indicate a vulnerability to psychopathology. In effect, the results of these studies provide a possible model of how healthy participants cope with mild stress, and point to an attentional mechanism of emotion regulation that facilitates the maintenance of goal-directed behaviour.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Ellenbogen, Mark A
Pagination:x, 198 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Theses (Ph.D.)
Program:Psychology
Date:2000
Thesis Supervisor(s):Schwartzman, Alex E
ID Code:1281
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 13:18
Last Modified:08 Dec 2010 10:19
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