An experimental investigation of biased attention in non-suicidal self-injury: The effects of perfectionism and emotional valence on attentional engagement and disengagement
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Background and objectives: Theoretical models of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) propose that individuals who self-injure may find their attention more strongly captured by negative emotion, and that this intensifies distress which leads to episodes of NSSI. Elevated perfectionism is associated with NSSI, and when an individual is highly perfectionistic, a focus on perceived flaws/failures may increase risk of NSSI. We explored how history of NSSI and trait perfectionism are associated with different types of attention bias (engagement vs. disengagement) to stimuli that differ in emotional valence (negative vs positive) and perfectionism relevance (relevant vs irrelevant). Methods: Undergraduate university students (N = 242) completed measures of NSSI, perfectionism, and a modified dot-probe task to measure attentional engagement with and disengagement from both positive and negative stimuli. Results: There were interactions between NSSI and perfectionism in attention biases. Amongst individuals who engage in NSSI, those with elevated trait perfectionism exhibit speeded responding to and disengagement from emotional stimuli (both positive and negative). Furthermore, individuals with a history of NSSI and elevated perfectionism were slower to respond to positive stimuli, and faster to negative stimuli. Limitations: This experiment was cross-sectional in design so does not provide information about temporal ordering of these relationships, and given the use of a community sample, would benefit from replication in clinical samples. Conclusions: These findings lend support to the emerging idea that biased attention plays a role in how perfectionism is associated with NSSI. Future studies should replicate these findings using other behavioural paradigms and diverse samples.
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Attention biases in perfectionism: Biased disengagement of attention from emotionally negative stimuliTonta, Kate; Howell, Joel ; Hasking, Penelope ; Boyes, Mark ; Clarke, Patrick (2019)© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Background and objectives: Perfectionism is associated with the development and maintenance of several psychological disorders. Consequently, efforts to better understand perfectionism have potential ...
Slabbert, A.; Hasking, Penelope ; Notebaert, L.; Boyes, Mark (2022)Objective: Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), the deliberate and self-inflicted damage of body tissue, typically serves an emotion regulation function. Both negative and positive affectivity have been associated with NSSI, ...
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