The relationship between adolescents' pain catastrophizing and attention bias to pain faces is moderated by attention control

Lauren C. Heathcote, Tine Vervoort, Christopher Eccleston, Elaine Fox, Konrad Jacobs, Dimitri M L Van Ryckeghem, Jennifer Y F Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


This study considered the attentional functioning of adolescents with varying levels of pain catastrophizing. Specifically,we investigated the relationship between pain catastrophizing and attention bias to pain facial expressions. Furthermore, drawing on dual process models in the context of pain, we investigated the moderating role of attention control on this relationship. Adolescents (N 5 73; age, 16-18 years) performed a dot-probe task in which facial expressions of pain and neutral expressions were presented for 100 milliseconds and 1250 milliseconds. Participants also completed self-report pain catastrophizing and attention control measures. We found that although there was no main effect of pain catastrophizing on attention bias towards pain faces, attention control did significantly moderate this relationship. Further analysis revealed that lower levels of attention control were significantly associatedwith increasing attentional vigilance towards pain faces only within high catastrophizing adolescents. In addition, we found that poorer attention control was related to increased attention bias for pain faces (regardless of pain catastrophizing level) when these faces were presented for relatively longer durations (ie, 1250milliseconds) but not for short durations (ie, 100 milliseconds). This study supports a dual processmodel of attentional processes in pain, thus replicating previous findings within the psychopathology literature but extending them to the study of pain. Theoretical and clinical implications of our findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1334-1341
Number of pages8
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Adolescents
  • Attention bias
  • Attention control
  • Dual process model
  • Pain catastrophizing


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