Perceived arousal, focus of attention, and avoidance behavior

Charles S. Carver, Paul H. Blaney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Attribution theory holds that perceived arousal may cause a person to draw an inference about his emotions and base his subsequent behavior on that inference. Recent research suggests, however, that this account does not entirely explain the influence of false arousal feedback on simultaneously occurring avoidance behavior. The following model, based on self-awareness theory, is proposed. Autonomic arousal feedback may cause heightened self-focus, followed by 1 of 2 possibilities: (a) If the person believes he can cope with his fear, he will redirect his attention to a behavior-goal comparison in order to match the one with the other. (b) If the person doubts his ability to match his behavior with the goal, such a comparison will be aversive and he will avoid focusing on it. These possibilities should lead to 2 different behavioral reactions as well: Doubtful Ss should avoid the aversive stimulus more quickly when presented with arousal feedback, but confident Ss should not. To test the model, a study was conducted in which 57 undergraduates who had self-rated moderate fear of nonpoisonous snakes and who also had indicated either confidence or doubt about their abilities to do the approach task approached a live boa constrictor in the presence of an accelerating or a constant heartbeat. Both behavioral and self-reported focus of attention results were consistent with the proposed attentional model. (17 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-162
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Volume86
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 1977

Keywords

  • exposure to accelerating vs constant heart beat & self confidence vs doubt about ability to approach snakes, avoidance behavior & self reported focus of attention, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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