Date of Award
Master of Arts - Psychology
Dr. James D. Schaeffer
Dr. Nathan Sparkman
Dr. Scott Drury
Dr. Luis Aguerrevere
Cyberchondria is described as excessively searching online for health information that ultimately increases worry and anxiety about one’s health (Starcevic et al., 2019). Research has demonstrated an increased attentional bias in anxious individuals for threat-related stimuli. Attentional bias for health information exacerbated by the frequent exposure to health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic may contribute to additional health-seeking behavior. The current study aimed to explore the potential relationship between COVID-19 health threats and cyberchondria level on attentional bias toward illness-related stimuli (symptom words) and the intent to perform safety behaviors while controlling for Trait Anxiety and Health Anxiety. Participants (n=49) were randomly assigned to the COVID-19 prime group or the control group. An EST using illness words and neutral words was then used to assess attention allocation. Scores from surveys were used to measure safety behavior intention, cyberchondria, trait anxiety, and health anxiety. A t-test was used to measure group differences. The primed participants did not significantly differ from the control group for all measures. The regression analyses showed that Emotional Stroop performance and safety behavior intentions were not related to cyberchondria or the COVID-19 health threatening prime. Research has suggested that instead of increased attention to threatening information individuals may demonstrate increased avoidance to threat, which could explain the null findings. Further research is needed to investigate potential predictors that may influence adoption, attitudes, and intentions toward safety behaviors.
Keywords: cyberchondria, COVID-19, Emotional Stroop Task, attentional bias, safety behaviors
Charles, Jacqueline J., "Cyberchondria and COVID-19 Health Threats Related to Attentional Bias and Safety Behaviors" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 468.
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