Publications by authors named "Dinkar Sharma"

30 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Biased probability estimates in trait anxiety and trait depression are unrelated to biased availability.

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 2021 12 25;73:101672. Epub 2021 Jun 25.

School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.

Background And Objectives: People high in trait anxiety or depression overestimate the probability of negative events, and underestimate the probability of positive events, relative to people low in trait anxiety and depression. Although this probability bias may be fundamental to some emotional disorders, its causes are not well understood. The dominant explanations are based on the availability heuristic: people relatively high in anxiety or depression find it relatively easy to imagine reasons why bad things might happen to them, and this affects their probability estimates. We tested, for the first time, whether individual differences in the availability of such reasons mediate the relationships between trait anxiety or depression and probability bias, in a nonclinical sample.

Methods: Two hundred and seventy-eight undergraduates generated reasons why a set of positive and negative events might vs. might not happen to them, before rating those events' probability and potential impact on their lives.

Results: Individual differences in the availability of reasons why good and bad events might vs. might not happen did not mediate the sizeable relationships between trait anxiety and probability bias, and between trait depression and probability bias; these relationships remained significant when availability was controlled. Results for the impact of events ('cost bias') were less clear.

Limitations: Replication with patient groups would be invaluable; different operationalisations of availability may change the results.

Conclusions: Availability can influence probability estimates, but it does not explain why we see probability bias in people with high trait anxiety or depression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2021.101672DOI Listing
December 2021

Spontaneous recognition: Investigating the role of working memory.

Mem Cognit 2021 Nov 3;49(8):1665-1676. Epub 2021 Jun 3.

School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NZ, UK.

In almost every aspect of life, focusing on a target and ignoring distractors effectively is very important. Alternative to the common view, distraction may aid recognition via triggering automatic responses. Spontaneous recognition (SR) can be defined as the unintentional recognition of target stimuli and is measured by the effect of familiarity to distractors on a recognition task. Research has indicated that previously seen or not seen (old/new) distractors affect the recognition of targets. This research aimed to investigate the influence of working memory load on SR. A dual-task was designed to ensure engagement in two tasks-namely, the memory Stroop task (recognition task) and the n-back task (working memory task) at the same time. This design enabled an investigation of the influence of working memory load and allowed for further exploration of the influence of episodic memory load and the characteristics of n-back task. The results are in line with previous research; participants were more accurate when target and distractor were congruent versus when they were incongruent, but only when WM load was high. This interaction was modulated by episodic memory load and n-back task trials (match/mismatch). It was concluded that many factors may contribute to the SR effect. This research demonstrated that the SR effect is determined by WM availability and recognition processes engaged in another task.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13421-021-01194-xDOI Listing
November 2021

Ink colours as task-irrelevant information decrease memory accuracy with the Associative Memory Stroop Task.

Acta Psychol (Amst) 2021 May 15;216:103306. Epub 2021 Apr 15.

University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Previous research by Hazan-Liran & Miller (2017) developed a new Stroop-like task to examine how ink colours as task-irrelevant information affects paired-associate learning (see also Miller, Hazan-Liran, & Cohen, 2018). The task was to learn word-number pairs (e.g. blue-5) whilst only numbers were coloured in either congruent ink colours (e.g. number 5 printed in blue ink), incongruent ink colours (e.g. 5 printed in brown ink) or neutral ink colours (e.g. 5 printed in black ink). The present paper refers to this task as the Associative Memory Stroop Task (AMST). Hazan-Liran & Miller (2017) found that incongruent ink colours interfere and congruent ink colour facilitate the speed of learning word-number pairs. The present experiments employed the AMST to examine the effects of irrelevant ink colours (with colour names) on memory accuracy in cued recall and associative recognition. Memory impairment was found with incongruent ink colours on both memory tests whilst improved memory accuracy with congruent ink colours was not reliable. We discuss possible explanations for these findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2021.103306DOI Listing
May 2021

Distraction by unintentional recognition: Neurocognitive mechanisms and effects of aging.

Psychol Aging 2020 Aug;35(5):639-653

School of Psychology.

Sometimes, we intentionally evaluate stimuli to assess whether we recognize them, whereas, at other times, stimuli automatically elicit recognition despite our efforts to ignore them. If multiple stimuli are encountered in the same environment, intentional recognition judgments can be biased by unintentional recognition of to-be-ignored stimuli. Aging is associated with increased distractibility and impaired intentional retrieval processes, which can make older adults more susceptible to distraction-induced recognition biases. We measured recognition memory performance, event-related potentials (ERPs), and electroencephalography oscillations in old (age range = 60-74) and young (age range = 18-24) adults to investigate how aging affects unintentional and intentional memory processes, and how these processes interact over time to produce distraction-induced recognition biases. Older participants had poorer intentional recognition memory, but the biasing effect of unintentional distractor recognition was similar across age groups. ERP effects related to intentional and unintentional recognition that were strongly expressed in the younger group were reduced or absent in the older group. Furthermore, the older group showed qualitatively different ERP activity during intentional recognition compared with the younger group. However, similar patterns of theta and alpha oscillations were found in both age groups, who showed theta power increases for both intentional and unintentional recognition, whereas alpha power was enhanced for intentional recognition but reduced for unintentional recognition. Overall, the findings show that unintentional and intentional recognition involve multiple dissociable memory processes that have different time-courses and functional characteristics and are differentially affected by aging. Whereas aging has strong effects on the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying intentional recognition memory, unintentional recognition mechanisms are less affected. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pag0000398DOI Listing
August 2020

Mindfulness Meditation Improves Visual Short-Term Memory.

Psychol Rep 2021 Aug 25;124(4):1673-1686. Epub 2020 May 25.

School of Psychology, 4547University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK.

Research into the effects of mindfulness meditation on behavioral outcomes has received much interest in recent years, with benefits for both short-term memory and working memory identified. However, little research has considered the potential effects of brief mindfulness meditation interventions or the nature of any benefits for visual short-term memory. Here, we investigate the effect of a single, 8-minute mindfulness meditation intervention, presented via audio recording, on a short-term memory task for faces. In comparison with two control groups (listening to an audiobook or simply passing the time however they wished), our mindfulness meditation participants showed greater increases in visual short-term memory capacity from pre- to post-intervention. In addition, only mindfulness meditation resulted in significant increases in performance. In conclusion, a single, brief mindfulness meditation intervention led to improvements in visual short-term memory capacity for faces, with important implications regarding the minimum intervention necessary to produce measurable changes in short-term memory tasks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0033294120926670DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8242403PMC
August 2021

Response Modality and the Stroop Task.

Exp Psychol 2019 Sep;66(5):361-367

CNRS, LAPSCO, Université Clermont Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France.

A long-standing debate in the Stroop literature concerns whether the way we respond to the color dimension determines how we process the irrelevant dimension, or whether word processing is purely stimulus driven. Models and findings in the Stroop literature differ in their predictions about how response modes (e.g., responding manually vs. vocally) affect how the irrelevant word is processed (i.e., phonologically, semantically) and the interference and facilitation that results, with some predicting qualitatively different Stroop effects. Here, we investigated whether response mode modifies phonological facilitation produced by the irrelevant word. In a fully within-subject design, we sought evidence for the use of a serial print-to-speech prelexical phonological processing route when using manual and vocal responses by testing for facilitating effects of phonological overlap between the irrelevant word and the color name at the initial and final phoneme positions. The results showed phoneme overlap leads to facilitation with both response modes, a result that is inconsistent with qualitative differences between the two response modes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000459DOI Listing
September 2019

Attentional control and estimation of the probability of positive and negative events.

Cogn Emot 2020 05 25;34(3):553-567. Epub 2019 Aug 25.

Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.

People high in negative affect tend to think negative events are more likely than positive events ("probability bias"). Studies have found that weak attentional control exaggerates another negative affect-related cognitive bias - attentional bias - but it is not clear why this might be. We therefore wanted to know whether weak attentional control would be related to probability bias too. Four studies, with predominantly female student samples ( = 857), revealed correlations of around -.38 between attentional control and probability bias. This remained significant when trait anxiety and depression were controlled; there were no interactions between attentional control and negative affect. Studies 3 and 4 found that attentional control's relationship with probability bias was partly mediated by emotion regulation ability. These results suggest attentional control is important for regulating affect-related cognitive biases, and for emotion regulation in general. Furthermore, because cognitive biases are thought to be important for maintaining emotional disorders, these results are also consistent with weak attentional control being a risk factor for these disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2019.1657382DOI Listing
May 2020

Priming Emotional Salience Reveals the Role of Episodic Memory and Task Conflict in the Non-color Word Stroop Task.

Front Psychol 2019 7;10:1826. Epub 2019 Aug 7.

School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom.

Previous research attempted to account for the emotional Stroop effect based on connectionist models of the Stroop task that implicate conflict in the output layer as the underlying mechanism (e.g., Williams et al., 1996). Based on Kalanthroff et al.'s (2015) proactive-control/task-conflict (PC-TC) model, our study argues that the interference from non-color words (neutral and negative words) is due to task conflict. Using a study-test procedure 120 participants (59 high and 61 low trait anxiety) studied negative and neutral control words prior to being tested on a color responding task that included studied and unstudied words. The results for the low anxiety group show no emotional Stroop effect, but do demonstrate the slowdown in response latencies to a block of studied and unstudied words compared to a block of unstudied words. In contrast, the high anxiety group shows (a) an emotional Stroop effect but only for studied negative words and (b) a reversed sequential modulation in which studied negative words slowed down the color-responding of studied negative words on the next trial. We consider how these findings can be incorporated into the PC-TC model and suggest the interacting role of trait anxiety, episodic memory, and emotional salience driving attention that is based on task conflict.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01826DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6696988PMC
August 2019

A relationship between weak attentional control and cognitive distortions, explained by negative affect.

PLoS One 2019 18;14(4):e0215399. Epub 2019 Apr 18.

Sabancı University, Istanbul, Turkey.

People high in negative affect (anxiety or depression) show cognitive distortions, specific thinking errors which contribute to the maintenance of their condition. It is thought that weak attentional control is a risk factor for negative affect and emotional disorders, because weak attentional control exaggerates the expression of attentional bias, another cognitive feature of emotional disorders. We wondered whether weak attentional control might similarly exaggerate the expression of cognitive distortions. In two samples of students from Turkey and the UK, we found that weak attentional control was indeed related to cognitive distortions, but this relationship was explained by both variables' relationships with negative affect. This suggests that weak attentional control, while related to negative affect, does not necessarily exaggerate all of its cognitive features. There seems to be a limit on the affective consequences of poor attentional control, which may limit its clinical usefulness as a risk factor for emotional disorders.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0215399PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472758PMC
January 2020

Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in Increasing Pain Tolerance and Improving the Mental Health of Injured Athletes.

Front Psychol 2018 15;9:722. Epub 2018 May 15.

School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom.

Literature indicates that injured athletes face both physical and psychological distress after they have been injured. In this study, a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was utilised as an intervention for use during the period of recovery with injured athletes and, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study using MBSR as an intervention for this purpose. The aim of this research was to investigate the role of MBSR practise in reducing the perception of pain and decreasing anxiety/stress, as well as increasing pain tolerance and mindfulness. An additional aim was to increase positive mood and decrease negative mood in injured athletes. The participants comprised of twenty athletes (male = 14; female = 6; age range = 21-36 years) who had severe injuries, preventing their participation in sport for more than 3 months. Prior to their injury, the participants had trained regularly with their University teams and participated in official university championships. Both groups followed their normal physiotherapy treatment, but in addition, the intervention group practised mindfulness meditation for 8 weeks (one 90-min session/week). A Cold Pressor Test (CPT) was used to assess pain tolerance. In contrast, the perception of pain was measured using a Visual Analogue Scale. Other measurements used were the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), and Profile of Mood States (POMS). Our results demonstrated an increase in pain tolerance for the intervention group and an increase in mindful awareness for injured athletes. Moreover, our findings observed a promising change in positive mood for both groups. Regarding the Stress/Anxiety scores, our findings showed a notable decrease across sessions; however, no significant changes were observed in other main and interaction effects in both groups. Injured athletes can benefit from using mindfulness as part of the sport rehabilitation process to increase their pain tolerance and awareness. Further research is required to assess whether increasing pain tolerance could help in the therapeutic process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00722DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5963333PMC
May 2018

Setting the alarm: Word emotional attributes require consolidation to be operational.

Emotion 2018 Dec 25;18(8):1078-1096. Epub 2018 Jan 25.

School of Psychology, and Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, University of Kent.

Demonstrations of emotional Stroop in conditioned made-up words are flawed because of the lack of task ensuring similar word encoding across conditions. Here, participants were trained on associations between made-up words (e.g., 'drott') and pictures with an alarming or neutral content (e.g., 'a dead sheep' vs. 'a munching cow') in a situation that required attention to both ends of each association. To test whether word emotional attributes need to consolidate before they can hijack attention, one set of associations was learned seven days before the test, whereas the other set was learned either six hrs or immediately before the test. The novel words' ability to evoke their emotional attributes was assessed by using both Stroop and an auditory analogue called pause detection. Matching words and pictures was harder for alarming associations. However, similar learning rate and forgetting at seven days were observed for both types of associations. Pause detection revealed no emotion effect for same-day (i.e., unconsolidated) associations, but robust interference for seven-day-old (i.e., consolidated) alarming associations. Attention capture was found in the emotional Stroop as well, though only when trial n-1 referred to a same-day association. This task also showed stronger response repetition priming (independently of emotion) when trials n and n-1 both tapped into seven-day-old associations. Word emotional attributes hence take between six hrs and seven days to be operational. Moreover, age interactions between consecutive trials can be used to gauge implicitly the indirect (relational) episodic associations that develop in the meantime between the memories of individual items. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000382DOI Listing
December 2018

Working memory regulates trait anxiety-related threat processing biases.

Emotion 2017 06 19;17(4):616-627. Epub 2016 Dec 19.

Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, School of Psychology, University of Kent.

High trait anxious individuals tend to show biased processing of threat. Correlational evidence suggests that executive control could be used to regulate such threat-processing. On this basis, we hypothesized that trait anxiety-related cognitive biases regarding threat should be exaggerated when executive control is experimentally impaired by loading working memory. In Study 1, 68 undergraduates read ambiguous vignettes under high and low working memory load; later, their interpretations of these vignettes were assessed via a recognition test. Trait anxiety predicted biased interpretation of social threat vignettes under high working memory load, but not under low working memory load. In Study 2, 53 undergraduates completed a dot probe task with fear-conditioned Japanese characters serving as threat stimuli. Trait anxiety predicted attentional bias to the threat stimuli but, again, this only occurred under high working memory load. Interestingly however, actual eye movements toward the threat stimuli were only associated with state anxiety, and this was not moderated by working memory load, suggesting that executive control regulates biased threat-processing downstream of initial input processes such as orienting. These results suggest that cognitive loads can exacerbate trait anxiety-related cognitive biases, and therefore represent a useful tool for assessing cognitive biases in future research. More importantly, since biased threat-processing has been implicated in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety, poor executive control may be a risk factor for anxiety disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000264DOI Listing
June 2017

Priming can affect naming colours using the study-test procedure. Revealing the role of task conflict.

Authors:
Dinkar Sharma

Acta Psychol (Amst) 2018 Sep 14;189:19-25. Epub 2016 Nov 14.

School of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

The Stroop paradigm has been widely used to study attention whilst its use to explore implicit memory have been mixed. Using the non-colour word Stroop task we tested contrasting predictions from the proactive-control/task-conflict model (Kalanthroff, Avnit, Henik, Davelaar & Usher, 2015) that implicate response conflict and task conflict for the priming effects. Using the study-test procedure 60 native English speakers were tested to determine whether priming effects from words that had previously been studied would cause interference when presented in a colour naming task. The results replicate a finding by MacLeod (1996) who showed no differences between the response latencies to studied and unstudied words. However, this pattern was predominately in the first half of the study where it was also found that both studied and unstudied words in a mixed block were slower to respond to than a block of pure unstudied words. The second half of the study showed stronger priming interference effects as well as a sequential modulation effect in which studied words slowed down the responses of studied words on the next trial. We discuss the role of proactive and reactive control processes and conclude that task conflict best explains the pattern of priming effects reported.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2016.11.004DOI Listing
September 2018

Unintentional and Intentional Recognition Rely on Dissociable Neurocognitive Mechanisms.

J Cogn Neurosci 2016 Nov 15;28(11):1838-1848. Epub 2016 Jul 15.

University of Kent.

Distractibility can lead to accidents and academic failures as well as memory problems. Recent evidence suggests that intentional recognition memory can be biased by unintentional recognition of distracting stimuli in the same environment. It is unknown whether unintentional and intentional recognition depend on the same underlying neurocognitive mechanisms. We assessed whether human participants' recognition of previously seen (old) or not seen (new) target stimuli was affected by whether a to-be-ignored distractor was old or new. ERPs were recorded to investigate the neural correlates of this bias. The results showed that the old/new status of salient distractors had a biasing effect on target recognition accuracy. Both intentional and unintentional recognition elicited early ERP effects that are thought to reflect relatively automatic memory processes. However, only intentional recognition elicited the later ERP marker of conscious recollection, consistent with previous suggestions that recollection is under voluntary control. In contrast, unintentional recognition was associated with an enhanced late posterior negativity, which may reflect monitoring or evaluation of memory signals. The findings suggest that unintentional and intentional recognition involve dissociable memory processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01010DOI Listing
November 2016

Emotional correlates of unirhinal odour identification.

Laterality 2016 28;21(1):85-99. Epub 2015 Aug 28.

b East Kent Neuro-Rehabilitation Service , East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust , Kent , UK.

It seems self-evident that smell profoundly shapes emotion, but less clear is the nature of this interaction. Here, we sought to determine whether the ability to identify odours co-varies with self-reported feelings of empathy and emotional expression recognition, as predicted if the two capacities draw on common resource. Thirty-six neurotypical volunteers were administered the Alberta Smell Test, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index and an emotional expression recognition task. Statistical analyses indicated that feelings of emotional empathy positively correlated with odour discrimination in right nostril, while the recognition of happy and fearful facial expressions positively correlated with odour discrimination in left nostril. These results uncover new links between olfactory discrimination and emotion which, given the ipsilateral configuration of the olfactory projections, point towards intra- rather than inter-hemispheric interaction. The results also provide novel support for the proposed lateralization of emotional empathy and the recognition of facial expression, and give reason to further explore the diagnostic sensitivity of smell tests because reduced sensitivity to others' emotions can mark the onset of certain neurological diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1357650X.2015.1075546DOI Listing
July 2016

The relationship between top-down attentional control and changes in weight.

Eat Behav 2015 Aug 6;18:81-3. Epub 2015 May 6.

Centre for Health Services Studies, University of Kent, CT2 7NF, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Aim: To investigate the relationship between top-down attentional control in the presence of food cues and weight change over a 3-month period.

Method: A Stroop task adapted to include background images of high-fat food and neutral items was completed by participants (N=60). Top-down attentional control was assessed by adaptation effects (Stroop effect is smaller when the previous trial is incongruent). To assess weight change, measurements were taken immediately after the Stroop task (T1) and again 3-months later (T2). Differences in weight between T1 and T2 were calculated and three groups formed: weight gain (n=20); weight loss (n=20); and no change in weight (n=20).

Results: Differences in top-down attentional control were observed according to weight change. Participants who demonstrated reduced top-down attentional control also exhibited changes in weight (both loss and gain) over the 3-months. In contrast, the weight of participants who maintained top-down attentional control in the Stroop task remained stable.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that attentional control may have a role to play in actual eating behavior. Individuals who demonstrated reduced levels across of top-down attentional control also experienced changes in their weight over the 3-month period. Whether individuals lost or gained weight attentional control was reduced. This reduction was, however, not specific to high-fat food cues, but a general reduction in attentional control across both image conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2015.03.014DOI Listing
August 2015

Testing a frequency of exposure hypothesis in attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli amongst social drinkers.

Addict Behav Rep 2015 Jun 7;1:68-72. Epub 2015 May 7.

Division of Psychology, London South Bank University, UK.

Aims: To examine whether a group of social drinkers showed longer response latencies to alcohol-related stimuli than neutral stimuli and to test whether exposure to 1) an alcohol-related environment and 2) consumption related cues influenced the interference from alcohol-related stimuli.

Methods: A 2 × 2 × 2 × 5 factorial design with Exposure Group (high, low) and Consumption Group (high, low) as between-participant factors and Word Type (alcohol, neutral) and Block (1-5) as within-participant factors was used. Forty-three undergraduate university students, 21 assigned to a high exposure group and 22 to a low exposure group, took part in the experiment. Exposure Group was defined according to whether or not participants currently worked in a bar or pub. Consumption Group was defined according to a median split on a quantity-frequency measure derived from two questions of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) questionnaire. A modified computerised Stroop colour naming test was used to measure response latencies.

Results: Exposure and consumption factors interacted to produce greater interference from alcohol-related stimuli. In particular, the low consumption group showed interference from alcohol-related stimuli only in the high exposure condition. Exposure did not affect the magnitude of interference in the high consumption group.

Conclusions: Attentional bias is dependent upon exposure to distinct types of alcohol-related cues.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2015.05.001DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5845920PMC
June 2015

Virtually compliant: Immersive video gaming increases conformity to false computer judgments.

Psychon Bull Rev 2015 Aug;22(4):1111-6

Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Witten/Herdecke, Alfred-Herrhausen Str. 50, 58448, Witten, Germany,

Real-life encounters with face-to-face contact are on the decline in a world in which many routine tasks are delegated to virtual characters-a development that bears both opportunities and risks. Interacting with such virtual-reality beings is particularly common during role-playing videogames, in which we incarnate into the virtual reality of an avatar. Video gaming is known to lead to the training and development of real-life skills and behaviors; hence, in the present study we sought to explore whether role-playing video gaming primes individuals' identification with a computer enough to increase computer-related social conformity. Following immersive video gaming, individuals were indeed more likely to give up their own best judgment and to follow the vote of computers, especially when the stimulus context was ambiguous. Implications for human-computer interactions and for our understanding of the formation of identity and self-concept are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13423-014-0778-zDOI Listing
August 2015

Sequential effects in judgements of attractiveness: the influences of face race and sex.

PLoS One 2013 2;8(12):e82226. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

School of Psychology, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom.

In perceptual decision-making, a person's response on a given trial is influenced by their response on the immediately preceding trial. This sequential effect was initially demonstrated in psychophysical tasks, but has now been found in more complex, real-world judgements. The similarity of the current and previous stimuli determines the nature of the effect, with more similar items producing assimilation in judgements, while less similarity can cause a contrast effect. Previous research found assimilation in ratings of facial attractiveness, and here, we investigated whether this effect is influenced by the social categories of the faces presented. Over three experiments, participants rated the attractiveness of own- (White) and other-race (Chinese) faces of both sexes that appeared successively. Through blocking trials by race (Experiment 1), sex (Experiment 2), or both dimensions (Experiment 3), we could examine how sequential judgements were altered by the salience of different social categories in face sequences. For sequences that varied in sex alone, own-race faces showed significantly less opposite-sex assimilation (male and female faces perceived as dissimilar), while other-race faces showed equal assimilation for opposite- and same-sex sequences (male and female faces were not differentiated). For sequences that varied in race alone, categorisation by race resulted in no opposite-race assimilation for either sex of face (White and Chinese faces perceived as dissimilar). For sequences that varied in both race and sex, same-category assimilation was significantly greater than opposite-category. Our results suggest that the race of a face represents a superordinate category relative to sex. These findings demonstrate the importance of social categories when considering sequential judgements of faces, and also highlight a novel approach for investigating how multiple social dimensions interact during decision-making.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0082226PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857852PMC
October 2014

The effect of mindfulness meditation on time perception.

Conscious Cogn 2013 Sep 15;22(3):846-52. Epub 2013 Jun 15.

School of Psychology, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NP, Kent, UK. Electronic address:

Research has increasingly focussed on the benefits of meditation in everyday life and performance. Mindfulness in particular improves attention, working memory capacity, and reading comprehension. Given its emphasis on moment-to-moment awareness, we hypothesised that mindfulness meditation would alter time perception. Using a within-subjects design, participants carried out a temporal bisection task, where several probe durations are compared to "short" and "long" standards. Following this, participants either listened to an audiobook or a meditation that focussed on the movement of breath in the body. Finally, participants completed the temporal bisection task for a second time. The control group showed no change after the listening task. However, meditation led to a relative overestimation of durations. Within an internal clock framework, a change in attentional resources can produce longer perceived durations. This meditative effect has wider implications for the use of mindfulness as an everyday practice and a basis for clinical treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2013.05.008DOI Listing
September 2013

Restrained eaters preserve top-down attentional control in the presence of food.

Appetite 2012 Jun 16;58(3):1160-3. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NP, United Kingdom.

This study investigated the attentional control of restrained eaters when exposed to food. Restrained (N=55) and unrestrained eaters (N=56) completed a color word Stroop task. Top-down attentional control was assessed by adaptation effects (the Stroop effect is smaller when the previous trial is an incongruent color word than a congruent color word). Adaptation effects differed between restrained and unrestrained eaters according to the type of background image presented (high-fat food vs. non-food). Specifically, in restrained eaters adaptation effects did not differ as a function of image. In contrast, adaptation effects in unrestrained eaters were not observed with high-fat food. Motivation to either approach or avoid food may explain these differences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.03.011DOI Listing
June 2012

Development of a repeated measures affective change blindness task.

Behav Res Methods 2011 Sep;43(3):826-33

Department of Psychology, London South Bank University, London, UK.

Flicker-induced change blindness paradigms have been used to explore attentional biases for a range of concern-related cues. However, previous studies have had limitations related to concerns about carryover effects in repeated measures designs, as well as problems with response modalities. The present article develops a repeated measures paradigm utilising nonverbal responses and explores the implications of these design modifications for the reliability and validity of the paradigm. Affective stimuli were presented to participants, and the results suggest that the modified paradigm is a useful tool for assessing attentional bias. A number of recommendations for the future use of this methodology are made.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13428-011-0072-1DOI Listing
September 2011

Exploring the temporal dynamics of social facilitation in the Stroop task.

Psychon Bull Rev 2010 Feb;17(1):52-8

School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, England.

The importance of social context in affecting attention has recently been highlighted by the finding that the presence of a passive, nonevaluative confederate can improve selective attention. The underlying mechanism, however, remains unclear. In this paper, we argue that social facilitation can be caused by distractor inhibition. Two distinct sources of evidence are provided from an experiment employing the Stroop task with and without social presence. First, analysis of the response time (RT) distribution indicates that interference is reduced at relatively long RTs. This is consistent with an inhibitory mechanism, whose effects build up slowly. Further support is provided by showing that social facilitation is prevented by using short response-to-stimulus intervals that are thought to reduce cognitive control processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/PBR.17.1.52DOI Listing
February 2010

Carryover effects to addiction-associated stimuli in a group of marijuana and cocaine users.

J Psychopharmacol 2010 Sep 25;24(9):1309-16. Epub 2009 Nov 25.

Department of Psychology, Keynes College, University of Kent, Kent, UK.

Addiction has been characterized as an attentional bias towards drug-related cues. In two experiments we investigate the effects of non-words that have been associatively trained to addiction-related images in a group of marijuana and cocaine users. These associated non-words were presented along with unstudied non-words in a subsequent addiction Stroop task. Results indicate a slowdown in responding to the colour of non-words that were paired with cocaine-related images compared with non-cocaine related images. The slowdown was also characterized as a carryover effect, with the largest effect occurring on trials following the addiction-associated non-word. No effects were found for marijuana images associated with non-words.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881109350079DOI Listing
September 2010

Neural correlates of intrusion of emotion words in a modified Stroop task.

Int J Psychophysiol 2008 Jan 29;67(1):23-34. Epub 2007 Sep 29.

Department of Psychology, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.

Behavioural studies have demonstrated that the emotional Stroop task is a valuable tool for investigating emotion-attention interactions in a variety of healthy and clinical populations, showing that participants are typically more distracted by negative stimuli as compared to neutral or positive stimuli. The main aim of this study was to find and examine the neural correlates of this greater intrusion from negative emotional stimuli. Reliable reaction time (RT) and event-related potential (ERP) data were collected from 23 participants who performed a manual emotional Stroop task with short (40 ms) and long (500 ms) inter-trial intervals. In the short interval condition, participants were found to produce longer RTs for negative than neutral words, suggesting that these stimuli were more difficult to ignore. This RT effect disappeared in the long interval condition, although larger P1 amplitudes were found for the negative words. This suggests that differences in early attention allocation may be unrelated to the degree of intrusion at the behavioural level. In addition, a larger negative slow wave around 300-700 ms post-stimulus was observed in the long interval condition, but only for those negative words that produced prolonged RTs as compared to their matched controls. This late and broadly distributed effect is believed to reflect suppression of meaning representations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2007.09.002DOI Listing
January 2008

An optimal viewing position effect in the Stroop task when only one letter is the color carrier.

Exp Psychol 2007 ;54(4):273-80

Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Sussex, UK.

Coloring only a single letter in the Stroop task can result in a reduction or elimination of Stroop interference. The present experiments were designed to test whether this modulation of Stroop interference occurs at all letter positions. Specifically, we investigated whether Stroop interference was reduced when the colored letter occupied the optimal viewing position (OVP). The experiments show that Stroop interference is not reduced at the OVP (Experiment 1) and that Stroop interference at the OVP is significantly greater than at other letter positions (Experiments 1 and 2). This finding has important theoretical and methodological consequences for studies of automatic processing in visual word recognition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169.54.4.273DOI Listing
December 2007

The role of fear-relevant stimuli in visual search: a comparison of phylogenetic and ontogenetic stimuli.

Emotion 2005 Sep;5(3):360-4

Department of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom.

It has been argued that phylogenetic fear-relevant stimuli elicit preattentive capture of attention. To distinguish between fear relevance and time of appearance in evolutionary history, the authors compare phylogenetic and ontogenetic fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant stimuli in a visual search task. The authors found no evidence for a special role of phylogenetic fear-relevant stimuli; it seems that fear relevance in general is more important than is the evolutionary age. The pattern of results indicates that attention toward threatening stimuli is mainly affected by a late component that prolongs the disengagement of attention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1528-3542.5.3.360DOI Listing
September 2005

Emotion and adherence to treatment in people with asthma: an application of the emotional stroop paradigm.

Br J Psychol 2004 May;95(Pt 2):127-47

Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QH, UK.

This study explored whether an emotional Stroop paradigm might represent an appropriate means of assessing individuals' emotional representations of asthma. In addition, the opportunity was taken to investigate whether emotional representations of asthma, as assessed by this method, were associated with adherence to inhaled preventative medication. An asthma Stroop task was devised which comprised three sets of stimuli: asthma symptom words, general negative words, and neutral words. Three groups of participants were compared on their performance on this task: individuals with asthma, individuals without asthma, and individuals without asthma who had been primed about the condition. It was found that individuals with asthma experienced significantly more interference when colour-naming the asthma symptom words, but not when colour-naming the general negative words. Furthermore, their performance on the asthma Stroop task was associated with self-reported adherence levels. Specifically, individuals who reported the highest and lowest levels of adherence displayed more interference when colour-naming the asthma symptom words than individuals with intermediate levels of adherence. It is concluded that the emotional Stroop paradigm might provide an objective and sensitive means of assessing individuals' emotional representations of illness. Additionally, it is proposed that emotional responses to illness should be assessed and included in research designed to explain health behaviours and, furthermore, that such research should not assume that any relationship between emotional representations and health behaviours will be linear.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1348/000712604773952386DOI Listing
May 2004

Reversing the emotional Stroop effect reveals that it is not what it seems: the role of fast and slow components.

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 2004 Mar;30(2):382-92

Department of Psychology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom.

The relative contributions of slow and fast (online) components in a modified emotional Stroop task were evaluated. The slow component, neglected in previous research, was shown to lead to the prediction of a reversed emotional intrusion effect using pseudorandomly mixed negative and neutral stimuli. This prediction was supported in Experiments 1 and 2. In Experiments 3 and 4, a new paradigm was developed that allowed a more direct observation of the nature of disruptive effects from negative stimuli. The results provided a clear demonstration of the presence of the slow component. The fast component, which has generally been assumed to be the source of the interference, was shown, in fact, to have little or no role in the disruption.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.30.2.382DOI Listing
March 2004

The role of time pressure on the emotional Stroop task.

Br J Psychol 2001 Aug;92 Part 3:471-481

Department of Psychology, University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.

Although a wide range of methodologies have been employed in examining the emotional Stroop effect, little systematic investigation of these experimental manipulations has taken place. Two experiments were designed to investigate the role of time pressure in the emotional Stroop effect. It is shown that time pressure has an important role to play in determining not only the magnitude of the effect but also in whether it is possible to observe any effect at all.
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August 2001
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