Improving the psychometric properties of dot-probe attention measures using response-based computation

Travis C. Evans, Jennifer C. Britton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Abnormal threat-related attention in anxiety disorders is most commonly assessed and modified using the dot-probe paradigm; however, poor psychometric properties of reaction-time measures may contribute to inconsistencies across studies. Typically, standard attention measures are derived using average reaction-times obtained in experimentally-defined conditions. However, current approaches based on experimentally-defined conditions are limited. In this study, the psychometric properties of a novel response-based computation approach to analyze dot-probe data are compared to standard measures of attention. Methods: 148 adults (19.19 ± 1.42 years, 84 women) completed a standardized dot-probe task including threatening and neutral faces. We generated both standard and response-based measures of attention bias, attentional orientation, and attentional disengagement. We compared overall internal consistency, number of trials necessary to reach internal consistency, test-retest reliability (n = 72), and criterion validity obtained using each approach. Results: Compared to standard attention measures, response-based measures demonstrated uniformly high levels of internal consistency with relatively few trials and varying improvements in test-retest reliability. Additionally, response-based measures demonstrated specific evidence of anxiety-related associations above and beyond both standard attention measures and other confounds. Limitations: Future studies are necessary to validate this approach in clinical samples. Conclusions: Response-based attention measures demonstrate superior psychometric properties compared to standard attention measures, which may improve the detection of anxiety-related associations and treatment-related changes in clinical samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-103
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Anxiety
  • Attention
  • Attention bias
  • Clinical utility
  • Information processing
  • Psychometric properties
  • Threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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