Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Nancy Kocovski

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Cognitive models of anxiety posit that socially anxious individuals’ attention is disproportionally biased for threatening information in the environment. One component in the cognitive model of social anxiety that has not been examined, in terms of the attentional bias, is rumination (i.e., the dwelling on perceived inadequacies). The purpose of the present research was to examine the impact that rumination had on attentional biases in social anxiety as measured through the use of a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) stream. When two target stimuli (T1 and T2) are presented amongst distractor stimuli in rapid succession it is hard to process T2 within 500 ms of the presentation of T1; this is known as the attentional blink (AB). Given that previous research has extensively documented that the AB is attenuated when T2 is of relevance to the individual, it was hypothesized that participants high in social anxiety would have an attenuated AB when T2 was a social threat word, compared to a neutral word, and compared to participants low in social anxiety. The first study did not find support for this hypothesis—no attenuated AB was found for participants high in social anxiety (n = 15) for social threat words compared to those low in social anxiety (n = 20). Study 2 expanded upon Study 1 by examining the impact of rumination on the AB between participants high (n = 32) or low (n = 34) in social anxiety. It was hypothesized that participants high in social anxiety and in the rumination condition would have an attenuated AB for social threat words, compared to participants in the distraction condition, and participants low in social anxiety in either manipulation condition. No differences were found for accuracy identification rates between social anxiety groups and manipulation conditions. Limitations and implications of the results are discussed.

Convocation Year


Included in

Psychology Commons