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Title: The neurocognitive basis of cognitive and emotional control
Author: Meyer, Marcel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 3580
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2013
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Cognitive models of threat processing maintain that threat, depending on the task at hand, can speed (when task relevant) or impair (when task irrelevant) cognitive performance (Pessoa, 2009). It is generally assumed that attentional bias to threat is modulated by anxiety, with increased anxiety leading to increased bias (Bishop, 2007; Mathews & Mackintosh, 1998). Evidence suggests that such biases are not actually specific to anxiety, however, and instead form part of a broader personality spectrum of negative affect or neuroticism (Clark & Watson, 1991), of which anxiety is but one facet. Further, such emotion-linked attentional biases to threat may be modulated not only by task demands, but also by individual differences in ‘regulatory’ traits, including emotion regulation and attentional control capacity. Most previous studies have focused on the influence of threat on spatial and temporal aspects of attention. It has recently been suggested, however, that threat material may also influence higher-level cognitive control processes, such as response inhibition. In the current thesis, I examine the influence of threat related material on different tasks of cognitive control: the Stroop task, the Flanker task, and the Stop-signal inhibition task. In addition, I examine the influence of trait negative emotion (neuroticism) and regulatory traits (emotion regulation and attentional control) on selective processing of threat material. I set out to test, for the first time, the idea that individual differences in negative emotionality (neuroticism) and attentional control/emotion regulation would interact to predict the impact of threatening material on cognitive control. More specifically, that good attentional control and/or emotion regulation would ‘buffer’ the effects of higher levels of neuroticism on the impairment of cognitive control by threatening material. In the Flanker tasks, I find evidence for speeded processing of positive emotion, whereas performance in the Stroop task is particularly impaired by threat material. By contrast, in the Stop signal task of response inhibition, I find that response inhibition (stopping) is slowed in the presence of angry facial expressions, and such slowing is greater in individuals high in trait neuroticism. Further, as predicted, the influence of neuroticism is moderated by individual differences in emotion regulation, such that good emotion regulation ‘buffers’ the impact of neuroticism. The implications of these findings for current cognitive models of threat-processing are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology