Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Lilly, Michelle M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Clinical psychology


Trauma-focused research has shown that high attentional control serves as a buffer against posttraumatic stress symptoms and other pathology. However, less is known in regard to the influence of attentional processes on the effectiveness of treatment strategies used to reduce symptoms. The current project used an analogue design to examine the impact of participants' ability to flexibly shift attention on the effectiveness of two prominent emotion regulation strategies in managing distress and trauma-related symptoms (i.e. negative affect, intrusive thoughts, and avoidance). Undergraduate students ( N = 153) completed a dot-probe task incorporating stimuli that elicit negative emotions and trauma-related stimuli to assess attentional shifting ability. Participants were randomly assigned to learn either cognitive reappraisal or acceptance to regulate their emotions during a trauma analogue film. Results revealed that distress did not differ based upon the emotion regulation strategy participants used. Additionally, negative affect and intrusive thoughts did not differ based upon level of attentional shifting ability. Individuals with lower attention shifting ability with regard to trauma-related stimuli exhibited lower levels of avoidance than individuals with higher attention shifting ability. This result was not found using attention shifting ability with negatively valenced stimuli. Further, attention shifting ability and emotion regulation strategy did not interact to predict negative affect or intrusive thoughts. However, there was a significant interaction between attention shifting ability with regard to negatively valenced stimuli and emotion regulation strategy on negative affect. Methodological limitations that may have accounted for the largely null findings are discussed.


Advisors: Michelle M. Lilly.||Committee members: David Bridgett; Holly Orcutt; Patricia Wallace; Katja Wiemer; Kevin Wu.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


iv, 150 pages




Northern Illinois University

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