Anxiety-related attentional biases and their regulation by attentional control

J Abnorm Psychol. 2002 May;111(2):225-36. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.111.2.225.


This study examined the role of self-reported attentional control in regulating attentional biases related to trait anxiety. Simple detection targets were preceded by cues labeling potential target locations as threatening (likely to result in negative feedback) or safe (likely to result in positive feedback). Trait anxious participants showed an early attentional bias favoring the threatening location 250 ms after the cue and a late bias favoring the safe location 500 ms after the cue. The anxiety-related threat bias was moderated by attentional control at the 500-ms delay: Anxious participants with poor attentional control still showed the threat bias, whereas those with good control were better able to shift from the threatening location. Thus, skilled control of voluntary attention may allow anxious persons to limit the impact of threatening information.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Arousal
  • Attention*
  • Cues
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual