Improving the Approach-Avoidance Task by including "No-Go Trials"

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This study examined whether an Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT), which utilises pictures of spiders to measure underlying cognitive biases, can be improved by the inclusion of No-Go trials and to what extent this underlying cognitive bias (called “spider tendency”) is related to “spider anxiety”. 142 participants were randomly assigned to one of the two conditions of an AAT: No- Go or No No-Go. The AAT presented pictures of either spiders (experimental stimulus), butterflies (control stimulus) or ladybugs (No-Go stimulus). All pictures had a secondary property of being tilted either to the left or to the right, on which participants were asked to react by either pushing or pulling a joystick. While in the No No-Go condition this instruction was applied to all stimuli, participants in the No-Go condition were asked to react to pictures of ladybugs differently, namely by not moving the joystick at all. After the task, they had to fill in a Spider Anxiety Screening (SAS) to measure their degree of “spider anxiety”. It was found that the inclusion of No-Go trials indeed improved the measurement of “spider tendency” by the AAT. This confirms the inclusion of No-Go trials as an effective improvement for the AAT by enhancing the attention for the stimulus content, while maintaining the advantages of indirect instructions based on secondary properties. Surprisingly, “spider tendency” was not related to “spider anxiety”. Implications and limitations of the present study are discussed.
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