Schizotypy and specificity of negative emotions on an emotional Stroop paradigm in the general population

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Abstract

Attentional-interference using emotional Stroop tasks (ESTs) is greater among individuals in the general population with positive (versus negative) schizotypal traits; specifically in response to negatively (versus positively) valenced words, potentially capturing threat-sensitivity. Variability in attentional-interference as a function of subcategories of negatively valenced words (and in relation to schizotypal traits) remains underexplored in EST studies. We examined attentional-interference across negative word subcategories (fear/anger/sadness/disgust), and in relation to positive schizotypy, among non-clinical individuals in the general population reporting varying degrees of schizotypal traits. As hypothesized, performance differed across word subcategories, though the pattern varied from expectation. Attentional-interference was greater for fear and sadness compared to anger; and analogous for fear, disgust, and sadness. In the high schizotypy group, positive schizotypal traits were directly associated with attentional-interference to disgust. Attentional-interference was comparable between high- and low-positive schizotypy. Results suggest negative emotion subcategories may differentially reflect threat-sensitivity. Disgust-sensitivity may be particularly salient in (non-clinical) positive schizotypy. Findings have implications for understanding negative emotion specificity and variability in stimulus presentation modality when studying threat-related attentional-interference. Finally, disgust-related attentional-interference may serve as a cognitive correlate of (non-clinical) positive schizotypy. Expanding this research to prodromal populations will help explore disgust-related attentional-interference as a potential cognitive marker of positive symptoms.

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Yaffe, B., & Walder, D. J. (2016). Schizotypy and specificity of negative emotions on an emotional Stroop paradigm in the general population. Psychiatry Research, 239, 291–300. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.02.041

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