More than Meets the Eye: Visual Attention Biases in Individuals with Chronic Pain
Samantha R Fashler
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The present study used eye-tracking technology to assess whether individuals who report chronic pain direct more attention to sensory pain-related words than do pain-free individuals. A total of 113 participants (51 with chronic pain, 62 pain-free) were recruited. Participants completed a dot-probe task, viewing neutral and sensory pain-related words while their reaction time and eye movements were recorded. Data were analyzed by mixed-design ANOVA with Group (chronic pain vs. pain-free) and Word type (sensory pain vs. neutral). Results showed a significant Group x Word type interaction effect for number of fixations, average visit duration, and late phase fixation duration, all greater for sensory pain vs. neutral words in the chronic pain group. None of the effects for reaction time was significant. Findings support the hypothesis that individuals with chronic pain display attentional biases towards pain-related stimuli and demonstrate the value of eye-tracking technology in measuring differences in visual attention variables.