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Jessica A. Maxwell, J. Eric T. Taylor, Jay Pratt, Penelope Lockwood; Attachment Style Influences Saccades. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):103. doi: 10.1167/14.10.103.
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The present research examined how attachment style (whether one seeks or avoids closeness in relationships) affects saccadic latency away from faces displaying emotion. Research on attachment shows that high anxiety individuals are particularly attuned to negative emotional stimuli, whereas those high in avoidance often disengage from emotional stimuli (e.g. Mikulincer et al., 2000). However, there has been mixed evidence as to whether individuals high in avoidance automatically attend less to emotional stimuli, and whether they are particularly less sensitive to positive emotions (e.g. Fraley et al., 2006; Dewitte et al., 2007; Vrticˇka et al., 2008), as positive emotions may convey intimacy cues that individuals high in avoidance seek to avoid. Further, it remains unclear whether such differences affect other systems that are sensitive to emotion stimuli, such as the oculomotor system. Subjects were presented with a face displaying either fear, happiness or a neutral expression, or a non-face (oval object) control, and made speeded saccades toward a peripheral target. Results indicate that, as predicted, individuals high in attachment anxiety made quicker saccades following all emotion faces, relative to those lower in attachment anxiety, and relative to control trials. Conversely, individuals with low and high avoidance differed only saccadic latency from happy faces, such that those high in avoidance were slower to respond. Within the non-face control condition, we did not observe differences based on attachment style, suggesting that the attachment differences in saccadic reaction times did not generalize to non-face stimuli. Taken together, these results suggest that attachment style produces differential saccadic latencies to various emotions, consistent with attachment theory predictions. This suggests that even at such an automatic level of responding, those high in attachment anxiety are hypersensitive to emotional stimuli, whereas those high in avoidance are hyposensitive to positive emotions.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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