Anxiety and the interpretation of ambiguity: a text comprehension study.


Beck's influential cognitive account of anxiety has led to the prediction that individuals vulnerable to anxiety should favor threatening interpretations of ambiguity (e.g., Beck & Clark, 1988; Beck, Emery, & Greenberg, 1986). The current study introduces a novel adaptation of the RSVP technique, previously used in text comprehension research, to evaluate this hypothesis. Results suggest that a group of 24 high trait anxious students did indeed selectively impose threatening interpretations on unconstrained ambiguous sentences. In contrast, a matched group of 24 low trait anxious students appeared to selectively impose non-threatening interpretations on such ambiguous sentences. These findings are fully consistent with the predicted anxiety-linked interpretative bias. Specific testable hypotheses are developed concerning the types of interpretative idiosyncrasies that plausibly may contribute to pathological anxiety.


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@article{Macleod1993AnxietyAT, title={Anxiety and the interpretation of ambiguity: a text comprehension study.}, author={Colin M. Macleod and Ira L Cohen}, journal={Journal of abnormal psychology}, year={1993}, volume={102 2}, pages={238-47} }