Rumination induces a pattern of attention characterized by increased vigilance followed by avoidance of affective pain words

M. L. Brookes, L. Sharpe*, B. F. Dear

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: This study examined the effects of rumination on attentional processes in relation to an acute experimental pain task. In keeping with recent theory and research, it was hypothesized that we would identify a pattern of attentional bias characterized by enhanced initial vigilance followed by avoidance of pain-related stimuli. Method: Undergraduate students were randomized to a rumination condition, which received threat-inducing information about the cold pressor task, or a distraction condition. Using the dot probe task, attentional biases to sensory and affective pain words were assessed at two presentation intervals (500 and 1250 ms). Results: Those in the rumination condition did not show differences in attentional biases compared to the control group, however, they did respond more quickly to pain congruent trials compared to neutral/neutral trials when affective pain words were presented for 500 ms. In addition, those in the rumination group responded more slowly in congruent trials to neutral/neutral trials than affective/neutral trials indicating avoidance at 1250 ms. Although those in the rumination condition exhibited higher levels of distress and reported higher levels of pain when they withdrew their hands from the cold pressor task, the congruency biases did not predict these results. Conclusion: These results suggest that experimentally manipulating rumination changes attentional processes consistent with the vigilance-avoidance hypothesis. Significance: The rumination manipulation led to increased worry about pain and induced to an attentional pattern of vigilance-avoidance for affective pain words. The induction also led to more distress and pain. Rumination and worry appear to increase unhelpful patterns of attention and could be an appropriate focus of intervention.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1197-1208
    Number of pages12
    JournalEuropean Journal of Pain (United Kingdom)
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


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