Semester of Graduation

May 2018


Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology

Document Type



Suicide is the cause of death of over 800,000 people worldwide each year and is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Individuals with elevated social anxiety appear to be at a particularly high risk for suicide. Attentional bias is a maintaining factor in a broad range of psychological conditions including social anxiety, and an attentional bias toward suicide-related cues is related to both past and future suicide attempts. However, little research has been done on attentional biases toward suicide-related cues, and no known research has examined whether individuals with elevated social anxiety have a bias toward suicide-related cues. Thus, the present study examined the relationship between social anxiety and attentional bias toward suicide-related words. Further, given social anxiety’s relation to the suicide risk factors Thwarted Belongingness (TB) and Perceived Burdensomeness (PB), the present study examined the relationship of social anxiety to attentional biases toward TB- and PB-related words. Among 153 (71.9% female) university students, social anxiety was not related to an attentional bias toward suicide words, TB words, or PB words. Bias to suicide cues and PB cues were related to current (past two-week) suicidal ideation. Importantly, attentional bias toward suicide moderated the relationship of social anxiety with current suicidal ideation. Implications and future directions are discussed.



Committee Chair

Buckner, Julia