abstract Amit Bernstein

Amit Bernstein (University of Haifa, Israel)

Conceptualizing, Quantifying & Modifying Biases of Emotional Attention as Dynamic Processes in Time

Central theories psychopathology and addictions have implicated Biases of Emotional Attention (BEA) as an important etiological and maintaining mechanism. Accordingly, for decades, researchers have worked to better understand BEA and their role(s) in human maladaptation so that we may develop clinical intervention(s) to effectively target this potentially pathogenic mechanism. Yet, despite more than 1500 scientific papers to-date (and more MA and PhD theses than anyone cares to admit!), the theorized promise of BEA and its clinical intervention has yet to be empirically realized. I argue that the long-sought breakthrough(s) in the basic and clinical science of BEA has been hindered by the exclusive reliance on a decades-old experimental paradigm that quantifies BEA as an aggregated mean of repeated trials data thought to reflect (i.e., to sample from) a static trait of BEA. I further argue that this assumption about the nature of the phenomenon is important, untested, and may be wrong. In contrast to this paradigmatic perspective on BEA as a static trait, I will argue that looking anew at BEA - as a dynamic processes in time - will bring the field's conceptualization and quantification of BEA closer to the nature of the phenomenon. I will further argue that doing so may help illuminate the etiology, maintenance, mechanisms, and outcomes of BEA across levels of analysis; and may thereby also be important to the development of novel intervention targeting BEA for a range of disorders. To illustrate these ideas, I will present new methods and findings on the temporal dynamics of BEA and their modification. First, I will present new findings from a series of studies that begin to illuminate the nature of BEA as a dynamic process in time by means of a novel bias-process-signal computational procedure. Second, I will present findings from a novel intervention paradigm - Attentional Feedback Awareness & Control Training (A-FACT) - designed to modify BEA dynamics via real-time feedback. To conclude, I will discuss the future directions for BEA research and will speculate as to the implications of these ideas and findings for other areas of research.