Early and Late Dot-Probe Attentional Bias to Mild and High Threat Pictures: Relations With EEG theta/beta Ratio, Self-Reported Trait Attentional Control, and Trait Anxiety

Psychophysiology. 2018 Dec;55(12):e13274. doi: 10.1111/psyp.13274. Epub 2018 Aug 22.


Frontal EEG theta/beta ratio (TBR; negatively associated with attentional control, or AC) was previously reported to moderate threat-level dependent attentional bias in a pictorial dot-probe task, interacting with trait anxiety. Unexpectedly, this was independent from processing stage (using cue-target delays of 200 and 500 ms) and also not observed for self-reported trait AC. We therefore aimed to replicate these effects of TBR and trait anxiety and to test if effects of early versus late processing stages are evident for shorter cue-target delays. This study also revisited the hypothesis that TBR and self-reported trait AC show similar effects. Fifty-three participants provided measurements of frontal TBR, self-reported trait AC, trait anxiety, and dot-probe task bias for mild and high threat pictures using the same dot-probe task, but this time with 80- and 200-ms cue-target delays. Results indicated that higher TBR predicted more attention to mild than high threat, but this was independent from trait anxiety or delay. Lower self-reported trait AC predicted more attention to mild than high threat, only after 200 ms (also independent of trait anxiety). We conclude that the moderating effect of TBR on threat-level dependent dot-probe task bias was replicated, but not the role of trait anxiety, and this study partially confirms that effects of trait AC are more dominant in later processing.

Keywords: EEG theta/beta ratio; attentional bias; attentional control; avoidance; trait anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Anxiety*
  • Attentional Bias / physiology*
  • Beta Rhythm*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Self Report
  • Theta Rhythm*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult