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Journal Article

Influence of adult attachment style on the perception of social and non-social emotional scenes

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Vrticka, P., Sander, D., & Vuilleumier, P. (2012). Influence of adult attachment style on the perception of social and non-social emotional scenes. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 29(4), 530-544. doi:10.1177/0265407512443451.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-001A-1EE8-8
Attachment theory describes how people emotionally bond with others, utilize their social interactions to regulate affective needs, and how they differ in their attachment style. However, it remains unknown whether anxious or avoidant attachment is linked to more general differences in emotional processing for negative and positive stimuli, and whether such differences depend on stimulus content. Here we tested how social or non-social positive or negative emotional scenes were rated for pleasantness, arousal, and control, as a function of individual attachment style, in a sample of 54 female participants. Our results show that avoidant attachment was associated with a selective reduction of pleasantness ratings for positive social images, whereas anxious attachment was associated with higher arousal and lower control ratings for negative social images, besides higher arousal ratings for all remaining stimulus categories. These findings reveal that adult attachment style is associated with differences in the perception of emotion-laden stimuli, even when unfamiliar and not directly attachment-related, and such differences may also affect positive scenes, particularly when they contain social information, rather than just socially negative or threatening information. In addition, our results support the notion that anxious attachment is not only associated with hyperactivating tendency during the appraisal of social threat, but may also involve an ambivalence influencing the judgments of both positive and negative information.