Self-reported measurements of attentional bias are possibly influenced by social desirability, conscious awareness, or introspection. This study developed a visual dot-probe task to study the relationship between attentional bias and posttraumatic stress disorder among women with breast cancer. Fifty six women with breast cancer were presented with a series of face pairs, which were equally divided into positive-neutral and negative-neutral pairs. One face pair was shown for each trial, which consisted of the neutral and emotional versions of the same face displaying side-to-side. Participants' goal was to detect a small dot displayed on the screen after disappearance of the faces as quickly as possible in 80 trials. Negative/positive attentional bias was the mean latency to detect probes appearing on the side of neutral faces minus that of negative/positive faces. We investigated the relationships between the dot-probe task and the Chinese Impact of Event Scale (CIES-R) and demographic variables. Negative attentional bias as measured by the dot-probe task was positively correlated with the CIES-R total score (r = 0.30, p< 0.05), the hyperarousal subscale (r = 0.32, p< 0.05), and the intrusions subscale (r = 0.30, p< 0.05) but not the avoidance subscale (r = 0.32, p = 0.14). This study has demonstrated that measuring attentional bias with a dot-probe task is possible. The dot-probe task may provide an alternative measurement to self-reported measurements and important information for psychotherapies. Future studies may examine the predictive values of the dot-probe task on treatment outcomes and the risk for developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
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