Attention control for external information and cognitive control for internal information play a causal role in emotion regulation according to different theories and empirical research. Former research in the lab of the investigators has shown positive effects of an interactive attention control/interpretation training, in which participants learned to unscramble scrambled sentences ("life is my a party mess") in a positive way ("my life is a party") by getting eye-tracking feedback about attention for positive ("party") vs. negative information ("mess"). After the training, participants could better reinterpret negative photos in a positive way. Attention- and cognitive control mechanisms prior to negative stressors (proactive control) and after negative stressors (reactive control) seem to play a role in this. Moreover, research has shown that low perceived control and negative expectations about future emotion regulation skills results in lower proactive control and a higher need of reactive control. Based on this, the assumption can be made that the effects of attention control training - targeting reactive control - could benefit from adding techniques that affect proactive control (e.g. psycho-education). In the present study this is investigated by testing a new two weeks attention control training to see if this has a positive effect on stress related complaints, depressive symptoms and emotion regulation. Given that the current COVID-19 pandemic is perceived as very stressful by a lot of people, the training could help here. Participants between 18 to 65 years of age are recruited during this corona crisis. The attention control training is a new smartphone based application. Participants have to unscramble scrambled sentences into grammatically correct sentences. In the training condition, participants are asked to unscramble the scrambled sentences in a positive way. By swiping, participants can see part of the sentences. This gives the investigators an image about the processing of the sentences. This procedure allows to measure how long participants attend to positive and negative words. In the training condition participants get feedback about the duration they process positive and negative words. In the control group participants unscramble the sentences as fast as possible without feedback on emotional attention. Participants only get feedback about the speed at which sentences are unscrambled. Before and after the 10 training sessions, attention of the participants is measured to see the effects of the training. Questionnaires on depressive and anxiety complaints, emotion regulation strategies, well-being and stress are administered before and after the training. There is also a follow-up measure 2 months after the training. Both groups (training and control) watch a psycho-education video before the start of the training.
Behavioral: Behavioral: OCAT-sham
Placebo version of the online contingent attention training preceded by psycho-education movieclip.
Behavioral: Behavioral: OCAT
Online contingent attention training preceded by psycho-education movieclip.
Other: psycho-education video
Both groups get to see a psycho-education video before the smartphone training starts.
- Android smartphone
- severe depressive complaints
Rudi De Raedt, PhD
Ernst Koster, PhD