Can compassion-focused imagery be used as an attention bias modification treatment?
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AbstractCompassion focused-imagery (CFI), one of the psychological interventions of compassion-focused therapy, is receiving increasing attention. It is a therapeutic tool that targets the process of self-criticism by prompting individuals to imagine themselves as compassionate or to imagine receiving compassion from an ideal compassionate other. This research examines the role of self-criticism in the attentional processing of emotional stimuli, namely, critical and compassionate facial expressions. It is hypothesized that the activation of positive social emotions through CFI plays a role in broadening attention in the processing of emotional stimuli. The McEwan Faces stimulus set, which includes critical, neutral and compassionate faces, was used to create an attentional bias task called the dot probe task. The processing of emotional faces was assessed before and after exposure to either CFI or neutral imagery, controlling for the process of sensory integration (n = 80). A between-subject analysis was used to test the hypothesis. Before the imagery task, participants tended to look away from critical faces, and their level of self-criticism played a role. Both types of imagery significantly reduced the bias away from critical faces when the stimuli were presented for 1200 ms. This effect was reversed in the neutral condition for participants with high levels of self-criticism but not in the CFI condition. Interestingly, self-criticism impacts the attentional treatment of critical faces and the effect of imagery entailing sensory integration on this treatment. CFI seems to preserve this effect for participants with high levels of self-criticism, possibly due to the activation of positive social emotions.
CitationLeboeuf, I., McEwan, K., Rusinek, S., Andreotti, E. and Antoine, P., (2021). 'Can compassion-focused imagery be used as an attention bias modification treatment?'. Current Psychology, pp. 1-12.