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Dot-probe paradigm: Wikis


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The dot-probe paradigm is a test used by cognitive psychologists in order to assess selective attention. In many cases, the dot-probe paradigm is used to assess selective attention to threatening stimuli in individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Participants are situated in front of a computer screen and their chins are securely placed on a chin rest. Participants are asked to stare at a fixation cross on the center of the screen. Two stimuli, one of which is neutral and one of which is threatening, appear randomly on either side of the screen. The stimuli are presented for a predetermined length of time (most commonly 500ms), before a dot is presented in the location of one former stimilus. Participants are instructed to indicate the location of this dot as quickly as possible, either via keyboard or response box. Latency is measured automatically by the computer. The fixation cross appears again for several seconds and then the cycle is repeated. Quicker reaction time to the dot when it occurs in the previous location of a threatening stimuli is often interpreted as vigilance to threat.

Some studies that use a dot-probe task

  • Amin, Z., Constable, R.T., Canli , T. (2004). Attentional bias for valenced stimuli as a function of personality in the dot-probe task. Journal of Research in Personality, 38 , 15-23. PDF
  • Bradley, B.P. (1998). Attentional Bias for Threatening Facial Expressions in Anxiety: Manipulation of Stimulus Duration. PDF
  • Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2003). Aging and attentional biases for emotional faces. Psychological Science, 14, 409-415. PDF


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