Does viewing bullying violence affect the allocation of attention in young adults?




Sulak, Tracey N., 1975-

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The purpose of the current study was to experimentally test the relationship between symptoms of inattention and vicarious experiences of bullying. The research questions of the current study were: 1) Can vicarious bullying induce symptoms of inattention?; 2) What happens to inattention after multiple exposures to vicarious bullying?; and 3) Are there sex differences in inattention after exposure to bullying experiences? The participants were graduate and undergraduate students from a private university with a 0.2% diagnosis rate of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Participants viewed four videos with three depicting scenarios of bullying, and after each video, the Stroop test was used to assess inattention. Heart rate was also assessed following each video. After finishing participation in the video phase of the experiment, participants completed a demographic survey, a bullying experiences survey, and the Screener for Inattentive Symptoms. The findings indicated exposure to vicarious bullying led to an increase in symptoms of inattention. The effects appeared to be cumulative, such that with additional exposure to vicarious bullying, a participant’s symptoms of inattention increased. The heart rate of participants appeared to mirror the symptoms of inattention, with heart rate increasing over the course of the experiment. There were no significant differences in reaction to vicarious bullying by sex. Implications of the findings include the need to assess experiences with bullying when diagnosing ADHD inattentive.