The neural correlates of attention bias and interpretation bias in aggression

Crago, Rebecca (2019) The neural correlates of attention bias and interpretation bias in aggression. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Preferentially allocating attention towards hostile stimuli, and attributing hostile intent towards ambiguous stimuli, is thought to contribute to the aetiology of aggression. Using behavioural and ERP methodology, across five studies, this thesis investigated the neural correlates of attention and interpretation bias within aggression. The first four studies explored attention bias towards angry, happy and neutral stimuli across two stimulus types; words and faces. Behavioural results showed a significant correlation between aggression and increased reaction time to probes replacing hostile words and angry faces. However, this effect was not replicated in the follow up studies for either modality. Overall, the ERP results showed significant effects of congruency (evoked P1/P300 amplitudes differed between probe positions, following the simultaneous presentation of two stimuli) across all studies. However, these effects did not always interact with aggression. Nevertheless, study three indicated that low aggression participants differentiated between angry and neutral faces, whereas, high aggression participants had relatively stable amplitudes. Interestingly, results showed differences in ERP patterns when participants responded to different modalities of stimuli. The findings suggest that angry faces are subject to automatic processing and therefore demand attentional resources. However, hostile words may be subject to slower processing and may not grab attention in the same way as angry faces. The final study used a recognition task to investigate neural correlates of interpretation bias. Behavioural results revealed between-group differences suggesting that aggressive individuals had an increased hostility-related interpretation bias. Largely, the interpretation bias ERP results mirrored those found across the attention bias studies, although processes relating to interpretation bias influence the later LPP component. I believe the original design of the studies presented in this thesis, and the subsequent findings, contribute to the understanding of attention and interpretation biases in aggression. Based on previous results, attention and interpretation theories, and current findings, I consider how cognitive biases may contribute to the maintenance of aggression and make recommendations for future work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Jennifer Whitaker
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2019 10:48
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2019 10:48

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