Category: Suicide and Self-Injury


Eye Tracking as a Behavioral Marker of Acquired Capability for Suicide

Saturday, November 18
12:15 PM - 1:45 PM
Location: Aqua Salon A & B, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Suicide | Risk / Vulnerability Factors | Cognitive Processes
Presentation Type: Symposium

The interpersonal theory of suicide (Joiner, 2005) identifies acquired capability (AC) as an important component of suicide risk. Previous research on AC has used a self-report measure to assess this construct. Recent work has indicated that indirect measures of suicide risk improve suicide prediction, as indirect measures do not rely on self-reported suicidal thinking (Nock et al., 2010). To our knowledge no studies have identified behavioral markers for AC, specifically.

Participants (N=79; 26=history of SI, 53=no history of SI; Mage=19.83, SD=3.33) completed a measure of AC (ACSS) and an eye tracking task containing 48 trials of two images (pain-related and non-pain-related) per trial. Each trial lasted 5 seconds. Attentional vigilance was measured with time to first fixation and sustained attention was measured with total fixation duration. History of SI was assessed via the CSSRS.

Time to first fixation for pain-related images was negatively correlated with AC (r=-.254, p=.025). In a hierarchical linear regression model, ACSS did not predict sustained attention to pain-related images independently, β=.081, p=.485, nor did history of SI, β=.014, p=.906. However, the interaction term of ACSS by history of SI was a positive predictor, β=2.38, p=.02, ΔR2=.072, p=.020. The moderation effect was the result of a significant positive correlation between ACSS and sustained attention for painful imagery in individuals with a history of SI, r=.448, p=.022, but not for individuals without a history of SI, r=.124, p=.388.

 Results suggested that increased vigilance for pain images may be a behavioral marker for AC, and therefore serve as a behavioral marker of suicide risk. Further, the moderation effect suggests that the particular relationship between AC and history of SI may be important to reveal increased risk for suicide in sustained attention to pain-related images. This study adds to the current literature by identifying a behavioral marker of AC, and may help us to better identify those individuals at risk for suicide. This study also provides theoretical information regarding a potential etiological or maintaining factor for AC.

Morganne A. Kraines

Doctoral Candidate
Oklahoma State University


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Eye Tracking as a Behavioral Marker of Acquired Capability for Suicide

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