What underlies security? Neurological evidence for attachment's resource enhancement role
University of Kansas
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The sense of attachment security has been linked with a host of beneficial outcomes related to personal and relational well-being. Moreover, experimental research has demonstrated that the sense of attachment security can be enhanced via cognitive priming techniques, and studies using these methods have shown that security priming can affect behavioral responses in ways similar to dispositional attachment security. The underlying neurological mechanisms by which security priming operate have been yet unknown, however. The current paper proposes three main components of security priming which include affect, cognition, and behavior. An fMRI study involving supraliminal and subliminal experimental priming then tests the conceptualization by exploring the underlying neural mechanisms of security. Results show patterns of brain activation reflective of affective (e.g., feelings of reward in the putamen), cognitive (e.g., regulatory processes in the medial frontal cortex), and behavioral (e.g., goal direction in BA 6) processes. Differences in activation as a result of individual differences in attachment are found in response to security priming reflecting individual differences in the process of security attainment. For instance, people high in anxiety had increased activation in attention, emotion, and regulatory areas in response to the subliminal prime, indicative of their hypervigilance to attachment-related stimuli and hyperactivating strategies. Overall, the brain activation parallels the proposed mechanisms of the sense of security, setting it apart from other constructs such as romantic love and demonstrating its role as a unique mental resource.
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