Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Han Joo Lee

Committee Members

Christine L. Larson, Raymond Flemming


Attentional Avoidance, Attentional Bias, Social Anxiety, Social Phobia, Subgrouping, Vigilance


Findings on the pattern of attentional biases in social phobia are mixed. Specifically, some support hypervigilance, some support avoidance, and others evidence an even more complex pattern of vigilance-avoidance. Despite the seemingly contradictory directions of attentional allocation, vigilance and avoidance do not need to be mutually exclusive. They may instead exist within the same person over an extended temporal course of processing. The primary aim for the current study was to examine whether individuals with generalized social phobia characterized by hypervigilant vs. avoidant patterns of attention bias would display different profiles of social anxiety symptoms and their related cognitive and emotional variables. In accordance with existing attention bias subtyping studies, the social threat vigilant group included those with mean attention bias scores > 0 on a dot-probe task, and the social threat avoidant group was comprised of individuals with mean attention bias scores < 0.

Results of the current study revealed that the social threat vigilant group reported marginally significantly higher symptom levels than the social threat avoidant group on a standard measure of social anxiety, indicating that vigilant forms of attention bias may be associated with slightly higher levels of social anxiety symptoms. In terms of extended cognitive processing, those with attentional bias towards threat at 500 ms on the dot-probe task seem to show a vigilant pattern over a 30-sec period using eye-tracking technology. Additionally, social threat avoidant individuals spoke for a shorter duration on a videotaped speech task in front of a live audience. In conclusion, this study provides important information that characterizes vigilant and avoidant patterns of attentional bias in terms of both clinical characteristics and patterns of extended attention processing.