Date of Award

8-12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Erin B. Tone, PhD

Second Advisor

Robert D. Latzman, PhD

Third Advisor

Akihiko Masuda, PhD

Fourth Advisor

David A. Washburn, PhD

Abstract

Mindfulness, a set of techniques for engaging with stimuli in the present-moment environment, has recently received considerable attention in the literature. Mindfulness is drawn from Eastern, Buddhist traditions and has been integrated into contemporary psychology, in part, as a technique for improving the ability to respond skillfully to emotionally distressing stimuli and processes (Bishop, et al., 2004). However, the boundaries of the mindfulness construct have yet to be solidly established; a variety of definitions exist and are used inconsistently in the literature. Clarifying how engaging attentional control processes in response to emotionally-charged stimuli, such as sad faces, relates to precisely-articulated models of mindfulness could constitute a useful first step toward better understanding the construct of mindfulness. One widely-referenced, viable model of mindfulness, developed by Bishop and colleagues (2004) suggests that mindfulness is composed of two components: attention and acceptance. It is unclear whether and how these proposed components of mindfulness relate to individual variations in behavior patterns on measures of attention bias for sad stimuli.

The current study, therefore, aims to examine associations among two components of mindfulness (Bishop, et al., 2004) and performance on a widely-used measure that elicits attention bias for emotional cues. It was hypothesized that scores on self-reported measures of attention and acceptance components of mindfulness would show negative and moderate associations with attention bias for sad faces and positive and moderate associations with attention bias for happy faces, indexed both by bias scores based on reaction times and patterns of visual gaze toward sad and happy faces. One hundred twenty-three college students were asked to complete demographic measures, the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale (PHLMS), and the dot-probe attention bias paradigm (which yielded both behavioral and eye movement measures). Complete behavioral attention bias data were acquired for 104 participants and complete eye tracking data were acquired for 88 participants. Results suggest no significant relationships of either component of mindfulness with either measure of attention bias to emotional stimuli. The discussion explores factors that may have contributed to the outcome and ideas for future research that might further clarify mindfulness.

Available for download on Sunday, April 15, 2018

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