Individual differences in emotionality and peri-traumatic processing

Shanna Logan, Richard O'Kearney*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Background and objectives: Recent cognitive models propose that intrusive trauma memories arise and persist because high levels of emotional arousal triggered by the trauma disrupt conceptual processing of elements of the event, while enhancing sensory/perceptual processing. A trauma film analogue design was used to investigate if the predicted facilitating effects on intrusions from inhibiting conceptual processing and predicted attenuating effects on intrusions from inhibiting sensory processing are moderated by individual differences in emotionality. Methods: One hundred and five non-clinical participants viewed a traumatic film while undertaking a conceptual interference task, a sensory interference task, or no interference task. Participants recorded the frequency and intensity of intrusions over the following week. Results: There was no facilitating effect for the conceptual interference task compared to no interference task. A significant attenuation of the frequency of intrusions was evident for those undertaking sensory interference ( 2 = .04). This effect, however, was only present for those with high trait anxiety (d = .82) and not for those with low trait anxiety (d = .08). Relative to high trait anxious controls, high anxious participants who undertook sensory interference also reported lower intensity of intrusions (d = .66). Conclusions: This is the first trauma film analogue study to show that the attenuating effect of concurrent sensory/perceptual processing on the frequency and intensity of subsequent intrusions is evident only for people with high trait anxiety. The results have implications for conceptual models of intrusion development and for their application to the prevention of post traumatic distress.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)815-822
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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