Attentional avoidance increases voice hearing in an analogue task in people with psychosis: An experimental study

Sarah Tully, Adrian Wells, Anthony P. Morrison

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Cognitive models of psychosis suggest that unhelpful ways of responding to experiences can maintain such experiences and the associated distress. The response styles of attentional avoidance and attentional focusing were manipulated in an analogue voice-hearing task. Predictions were that both would increase detection of words in response to an ambiguous audio-recording but that attentional avoidance would lead to a greater increase than focusing. We also predicted that there would be a greater increase in anxiety and distress in the avoidance group. Predictions were tested in a sample of 44 participants with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Participants were randomly assigned to either attentional avoidance or focusing while listening to an ambiguous auditory task. Number of words identified and anxiety and distress were recorded. As predicted, there was an increase in the number of words identified in both groups; however, this increase was greater in the avoidance group. The prediction that there would also be an increase in distress that would be greater in the avoidance group was not supported. It is possible that emotional reactions relate more closely to appraisals of the voice. The results suggest that avoidance of experiences is particularly counterproductive and can result in greater detection of experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-192
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research
Early online date27 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Attention
  • Engagement
  • Resistance
  • Schizophrenia


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