Attentional Bias in Individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: An Eye-Tracking Methodology

Kevin Dyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Attentional biases are implicated in theoretical models of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD); however, conventional reaction time paradigms have not been effective in detecting these processes. Eye-tracking methods enable greater precision in identifying patterns of attentional bias. The current investigation hypothesised that individuals with OCD would demonstrate evidence of vigilance, delayed disengagement and maintenance attentional biases towards OCD-related stimuli relative to a matched control group.

Method: Participants with OCD (n=16) were compared with healthy control sample (n=16) matched by age, gender and education levels. Measures of vigilance, disengagement and maintenance bias were investigated by recording eye-movements during a free gaze task in which pairs of neutral- and OCD, or aversive- images were presented.

Results: The OCD group demonstrated no evidence of vigilance or delayed disengagement biases. However there were significant group differences in measures of maintenance, including significantly more fixations upon OCD and aversive images, and increased overall dwell time on OCD and aversive images. Evidence of hypervigilant orienting to all stimuli was observed during early visual processing.

Conclusions: This is the first study to investigate attentional biases using a free-gaze paradigm in individuals with OCD. Eye-tracking data demonstrated evidence of maintenance bias, but not vigilance or disengagement towards OCD stimuli. However, generalised hypervigilance and faster disengagement to all stimuli was observed. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed in the context of anxiety-related hyperarousal and inhibitory dysfunction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Publication statusSubmitted - 2016


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