BackgroundAn influential idea is that attentional bias to information related to pain or pain-related negative affect underlies persistent pain problems. Such information is however often ambiguous. If ambiguous input is perceived as pain or threat related, attention to this stimulus would be enhanced compared with stimuli with no (dominant) pain-/threat-related meaning. Attentional bias to ambiguous stimuli related to somatic/health threat was expected to be more pronounced with higher levels of pain catastrophizing. MethodsUniversity students performed a spatial cueing task including four types of word cues that were combinations of word content (somatic/health threat vs. non-threat), and word ambiguity (unambiguous vs. ambiguous), each presented for 500 or 750ms. Attentional bias to somatic/health threat is reflected in larger cue validity effects for somatic/heath threat words than for non-threat words. ResultsIn the 500-ms condition, cue validity effects were larger for threat than for non-threat words in participants reporting low catastrophizing, but did not depend on word content in participants reporting higher catastrophizing. In the 750-ms condition, cue validity effects did not depend on pain catastrophizing or word content. Cue validity effects did not significantly differ between unambiguous words and ambiguous homographs. ConclusionsLow catastrophizers demonstrated attentional bias to threat content. Participants reporting higher catastrophizing showed overall enhanced attentional orienting. There was no evidence for differences in (biased) attention to unambiguous and ambiguous words. Further research is needed to determine attentional bias for ambiguous pain-/threat-related stimuli in the context of consistent attentional bias for unambiguous pain-/threat-related stimuli.
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- ANXIETY SENSITIVITY, CATASTROPHIZING SCALE, CHRONIC MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN, DOT-PROBE EVALUATION, INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES, INJURY/ILLNESS SENSITIVITY, PAIN-RELATED INFORMATION, PSYCHOMETRIC PROPERTIES, SUBCLINICAL ANXIETY, VISUAL-ATTENTION