Automaticity of Attentional Bias to Threat in High and Low Worriers

Huw Goodwin, Claire Eagleson, Andrew Mathews, Jenny Yiend, Colette Hirsch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
204 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Individuals with high levels of worry are more likely than others to attend to possible threats, although the extent of top-down attentional control processes on this bias is unknown. We compared the performance of high (n = 26) and low worriers (n = 26) on a probe discrimination task designed to assess attention to threat cues, under cognitive load or no-load conditions. The expected difference between groups was confirmed, with high worriers being more likely to attend to threat cues than low worriers. Importantly however, there were no significant effects involving condition (cognitive load vs. no-load), nor any significant association with self-perceived attentional control ability. These results suggest that pathological worriers are more likely to attend to threat than are individuals with low levels of worry, regardless of task demands on limited cognitive control resources. This finding is consistent with the dominance of habitual bottom-up influences over top-down control processes in biased attention to threat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2016

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Attention
  • Cognitive bias
  • Cognitive load
  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Worry

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