Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes

Symposium

Tracking Affective Ratings Over Time: Anxious Individuals' Dynamic Reactions to Valenced Information

Friday, November 17
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Cobalt 502, Level 5, Cobalt Level

Keywords: Anxiety | Cognitive Processes | Cognitive Biases / Distortions
Presentation Type: Symposium

Much of what we know about anxious cognitive processing relates to static, isolated pieces of information, though a person’s biased processing actually unfolds over time. Examining dynamic responses will improve our understanding of negative biases in anxiety. The current study presents the first use of the Tracking Affective Ratings Over Time(TAROT) task to dynamically evaluate the ways anxious persons process sequences of differently valenced information. We aim to show the utility of the task as an efficient tool to measure numerous forms of biased processing and create an individual profile of dynamic responding over time. Participants (N=141) of a range of anxiety levels completed the TAROT task and measures of trait and state anxiety. The TAROT task is a computerized task that tracks changes in self-reported affective reactions to continuous valenced information presented auditorily. In the task, participants heard narratives comprised of positive, negative, and neutral events (in varying orders) while moving a continuous slider to indicate how positive or negative they felt as each scenario unfolded. The task provides 21 different metrics that describe general response trends. It captures unique differences in responses over time during and after processing valenced information. Findings validated the TAROT paradigm. Indices that reflect general response trends showed many of the expected negative biases for those higher (vs. lower) in anxiety (e.g., more negative mean ratings (p<.01) and overall summary ratings (p<.01) and responding more negatively to neutral events (p<.001)). Temporal assessment of responses suggested that those higher (vs. lower) in anxiety changed their pattern of responding more quickly to negative events (p=.027). They also reported more negative minimums during and after positive events (p<.01), and less positive maximums after negative events (p<.01). The TAROT metrics related more strongly to measures of trait than state anxiety. This new paradigm holds promise to help elucidate the dynamic mechanisms that underlie anxious persons’ negative biases and the impact of both positive and negative experiences on their mental health.

Karl C. Fua

Doctoral Student
University of Virginia

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