Attention Training, Self-Focus, and Stress-Vulnerability: The Influence of Self-Esteem, Self-Esteem Range, and Social Anxiety
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Attention training (AT) is a therapeutic intervention developed by Adrian Wells that involves the training of attentional skills to treat emotional disorders (Wells, 1990). This study investigated whether the AT technique works as theorised to reduce anxiety and other symptoms by reducing self-focus. In a laboratory setting, seventy-one student participants were exposed to a single session of either an AT analogue or a control treatment to see if AT would reduce their self-focus and vulnerability to a subsequent stressor task. AT was not found to decrease self-focus or reduce vulnerability to the stressor. In addition, self-esteem (SE) and social anxiety were investigated as potential moderators of the relationship between AT and/or self-focus on vulnerability to the stressor. Prior research has shown that SE level and self-focus interact such that self-focus predicts vulnerability to anxiety in people with low SE, but not in those with high SE. In this study we also examined SE range, a measure we developed here to reflect the range within which a person’s state SE fluctuates over time. The results indicated that self-focus is related to increased vulnerability in those with low SE or a large SE range, but decreased vulnerability in those with high SE or a small SE range. This supports theorising that self-focus activates people’s self-beliefs, which then influence how they respond during potentially threatening experiences. The findings also support the recommendation that SE range be subjected to further evaluation.