Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli is a key feature of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, avoidance has almost exclusively been investigated with explicit measures targeting more strategic aspects of behavior. The aim of the present study was to examine automatic avoidance in older individuals displaced as children at the end of World War II with (n = 22) and without PTSD (n = 26) and in non-traumatized control participants (n = 23) with an Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT). Participants were instructed to respond to the color (gray, brown) of trauma-related, neutral, and control pictures by pushing or pulling a joystick. Groups did not differ significantly as to their behavioral tendencies towards trauma-related pictures. Thus, there was no evidence for automatic avoidance in individuals with PTSD. However, high vigilance was associated with stronger implicit avoidance towards trauma-related pictures in the PTSD group. Several explanations for the non-significant results as well as implications and limitations of the present findings are discussed.
- Approach-Avoidance Task
- Behavioral tendencies
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder