, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 1-17

Fear of Failure Biases Affective and Attentional Responses to Lexical and Pictorial Stimuli

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Abstract

The purpose of this investigation was to examine whether attentional biases would be noticed among individuals differing in levels of fear of failure (FF) as they viewed pictorial and lexical stimuli depicting various affective content. Indices of natural selective attention, namely, viewing time and self-reported affect, were assessed in 137 college students during free viewing picture and word presentation conditions. As hypothesized, FF was (a) negatively associated with self-reported dominance and valence for failure- and unpleasant-themed stimuli, and (b) positively associated with arousal ratings for unpleasant pictures. Although initially suppressed by neuroticism, partial correlation coefficients revealed a significant positive relationship between FF and viewing time for failure pictures. Results are discussed in the context of current theories of emotional reactivity and attentional biases pertaining to the nature of FF. Recommendations are provided for future research to elaborate the mechanisms involved in detrimental effects of FF.