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Attachment insecurity and strategies for regulation: When emotion triggers attention


Catarina Silva, Centro de Investigação e de Intervenção Social, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Av. das Forças Armadas, 1649-026 Lisboa, Portugal. E-mail:


Silva, C., Soares, I. & Esteves, F. (2012). Attachment insecurity and strategies for regulation: When emotion triggers attention. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 53, 9–16.

Attachment-related strategies are thought to be critical for regulation and processing of emotional information. This study examined biases in selective attention to emotional stimuli as a function of insecure attachment. Participants searched for a single target image preceded by to-be-ignored distracters depicting emotional images varying in valence and arousal. Results revealed that, in general, negative distracters affected accuracy levels, and that the anxious attached participants showed a clear interference of the emotional distracters. In contrast, the avoidant group evinced a higher control on such interference. In addition, arousal ratings to distracter images indicated superior emotional activation only for anxious attached participants. Consistent with the evolutionary-based attachment theory threat-related stimuli prompted priority attentional responses. Present findings are in line with evidence showing the deployment of distinct strategies in insecurely attached individuals for the regulation of attention to emotional information.