Bias in interpretation of ambiguous sentences related to threat in anxiety

J Abnorm Psychol. 1991 May;100(2):144-50. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.100.2.144.


In the 1st of 2 experiments, currently clinically anxious, recovered clinically anxious, and normal control subjects were presented with a mixture of unambiguous and ambiguous sentences; both threatening and nonthreatening interpretations were possible for the latter. A subsequent recognition-memory test indicated that the currently anxious subjects were more likely than normal control and recovered anxious subjects to interpret the ambiguous sentences in a threatening fashion rather than in a nonthreatening fashion. This suggests that the biased interpretation of ambiguity found in currently anxious subjects reflected their anxious mood state. A 2nd experiment established that the difference in interpretative processes between currently anxious and control subjects was not due to response bias and that the interpretative bias was a reasonably general one.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Color Perception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics