Towards a new model of attentional biases in the development, maintenance, and management of pain

Jemma Todd, Louise Sharpe*, Ameika Johnson, Kathryn Nicholson Perry, Ben Colagiuri, Blake F. Dear

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

60 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals with chronic pain demonstrate attentional biases (ABs) towards pain-related stimuli. However, the clinical importance of these biases is yet to be determined and a sound theoretical model for explaining the role of ABs in the development and maintenance of pain is lacking. Within this article, we (1) systematically review prospective and experimental research exploring ABs and pain outcomes in light of current theoretical models and (2) propose a theoretical framework for understanding AB in pain. Across prospective research, an attentional pattern of vigilance-avoidance was observed. Interventions targeting ABs were less consistent; however, there were promising findings among studies that found attentional training effects, particularly for laboratory research. The proposed Threat Interpretation Model suggests a relationship between threat, interpretation, and stimuli in determining attentional processes, which while tentative generates important testable predictions regarding the role of attention in pain and builds on previous theoretical and empirical work in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1589-1600
Number of pages12
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015


  • Acute pain
  • Attentional bias
  • Aystematic review
  • Chronic pain
  • Hypervigilance
  • Theory

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