An attentional bias for trauma-related verbal cues was frequently demonstrated in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using variants of the emotional Stroop task (EST). However, the mechanisms underlying the Stroop-effect are ill-defined and it is yet unclear how the findings apply to different paradigms and stimulus modalities. To address these open questions, for the first time a spatial-cuing task with pictorial cues of different emotional valence was administered to trauma-exposed individuals with and without PTSD, and non-trauma-exposed controls. Groups did not show different response profiles across affective conditions. However, a group effect was evident when comparing depressed with non-depressed individuals: Those with depression showed delayed attending towards trauma-related cues and faster attending away from negative cues. In correlational analyses, attentional avoidance was associated with both depression and PTSD symptom severity. These findings highlight the need for research on trauma populations and anxiety in general to pay closer attention to depression as an important confound in the study of emotional information processing.
- Attentional bias
- Information processing bias