Time-course of attention for threatening pictures in high and low trait anxiety

Behav Res Ther. 2005 Aug;43(8):1087-98. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2004.08.004.


Cognitive studies about anxiety suggest that the interplay between automatic and strategic biases in attention to threat is related to the persistence of fear. In the present study, the time-course of attention to pictures with varying threat levels was investigated in high trait anxious (HTA, n=21) and low trait anxious (LTA, n=22) students. In a visual probe detection task, high and mild threat pictures were presented at three durations: 100, 500, and 1250 ms. Results indicated that all individuals attended to the high threat pictures for the 100 ms condition. Differential responding between HTA and LTA individuals was found for the 500 ms condition: only HTA individuals showed an attentional bias for mild threatening stimuli. For the 1250 ms condition, the HTA individuals attended away from high and mild threat pictures. The observed pattern of differential attention to threatening pictures may explain the persistence of fear in HTA individuals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Attention*
  • Audiovisual Aids
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Psychological Tests
  • Time Factors