Attentional processes and responding to affective faces in youth with borderline personality features

Martina Jovev*, Melissa Green, Andrew Chanen, Sue Cotton, Max Coltheart, Henry Jackson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    This study examined attentional biases for emotional faces in borderline personality disorder (BPD). Twenty-one outpatient youth (aged 15-24 years) meeting three or more DSM-IV BPD criteria and 20 community-derived participants (aged 15-24 years) with no history of psychiatric problems and not meeting any BPD criteria completed a modified dot-probe task that tested automatic (30. ms) and controlled (500. ms) stages of information processing. The findings indicate that, compared with healthy controls, youth with borderline features were faster to respond to congruent rather than incongruent fear stimuli. This effect was independent of state anxiety and was observed during the 30. ms presentation of fearful faces. There was no significant effect for happy or angry faces. Youth with borderline features were also slower to respond to incongruent rather than paired neutral trials, indicating difficulties in disengaging attention from the perceived threat. Such differences were not found for the healthy controls. Thus, youth with borderline features had an attentional bias for fearful faces that reflected difficulty in disengaging attention from threatening information during pre-conscious stages of attention. This finding extends previous research highlighting the diminished capacity for affect regulation and subsequent engagement in behavioural strategies to avoid distress in BPD. Future research should explore the relationship between information processing, emotion regulation in adult BPD samples.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)44-50
    Number of pages7
    JournalPsychiatry Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2012

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