Trauma, Attentional Biases, and Revictimization Among Young Adults

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Date of Original Version



Individuals with previous histories of trauma are at increased risk for subsequent victimization and the development of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. Attentional biases to threat-related stimuli are thought to impact one’s ability to recognize future risk in his or her environment and may explain high rates of revictimization. Although the literature has identified three possible types of attentional biases among victims of trauma (i.e., interference, facilitation, and avoidance), findings are mixed. The current study examined attentional biases to threats among a sample of men and women with no, some, and multiple incident interpersonal and non-interpersonal trauma histories. It was hypothesized that those with multiple incident interpersonal trauma histories would demonstrate an interference effect (i.e., slower response times to threat-related words). Participants (N = 309) were 18- to 29-year-old college students. Self-report measures assessed trauma history, posttraumatic stress, and other psychological sequelae. Attentional biases were assessed using a dot probe computer task. Contrary to hypotheses, no significant differences in response times in the presence of threat-related words or neutral words were found among groups. Results suggest that multiple traumatized individuals do not exhibit attentional bias to threats compared to individuals with some or no trauma.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Trauma and Dissociation