Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Phillip J. Brantley


Previous research has shown that anxiety-disordered subjects attend to information directly relevant to their area of concern. In this study, it was postulated that cardiac-related stimuli would have attention capturing characteristics for individuals with no psychiatric history but who had recently experienced a myocardial infarction (MI). To study this hypothesis, MI subjects (n = 34) and matched controls (n = 31) participated in an attentional search task. MI subjects showed slower reaction times (RT) for both cardiac and socially threatening distractors compared to RT when neutral distractors were present. For both MI and control subjects distress level was associated with increased interference from socially threatening distractors. For control subjects only, reported level of cardiac concern was associated with RT speeding when cardiac distractors were present. In a second stage of this experiment, half of the subjects were instructed to suppress thoughts of an MI while the remaining subjects were instructed to think of anything. Contrary to prediction, subjects who suppressed thoughts of an MI did not show increased interference from cardiac distractors in a subsequent attentional search task.