Selective attention in anxiety: Distraction and enhancement in visual search

  title={Selective attention in anxiety: Distraction and enhancement in visual search},
  author={Mike Rinck and Eni S. Becker and Jana Kellermann and Walton T. Roth},
  journal={Depression and Anxiety},
According to cognitive models of anxiety, anxiety patients exhibit an attentional bias towards threat, manifested as greater distractibility by threat stimuli and enhanced detection of them. Both phenomena were studied in two experiments, using a modified visual search task, in which participants were asked to find single target words (GAD‐related, speech‐related, neutral, or positive) hidden in matrices made up of distractor words (also GAD‐related, speech‐related, neutral, or positive… 
Selective Attention and Health Anxiety: Ill-Health Stimuli are Distracting for Everyone
Psychological theories of anxiety are increasingly referring to information processing paradigms in order to understand the cognitive processes which underlie these disorders. Numerous studies of
Attentional biases to threat in social anxiety disorder: time to focus our attention elsewhere?
It is suggested that attention allocation in SAD is characterized by an avoidant rather than a vigilant attentional bias, contradict previous results that associate SAD with facilitated attention to threat and existing approaches to modify attentional biases, that aim to decrease attention towards threatening stimuli.
Making something out of nothing: neutral content modulates attention in generalized anxiety disorder
It is revealed that the impaired target detection among those with GAD relative to controls following neutral (but not fear) distractors was mediated by deficits in attentional control, and the implications of these findings for further delineating the function of attentional biases in GAD are discussed.
Investigation of Attentional Bias in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with and without Depression in Visual Search
The results argue against a robust attentional bias in OCD patients, regardless of their depression status and speak to generalized difficulties disengaging from negative valence stimuli.
Differential attentional bias in generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder
Patients with GAD and those with PD had a different pattern of attentional bias, and there was insufficient evidence to support the existence of specific attentional biases in patients with PD.
The reliability of attentional biases for emotional images measured using a free-viewing eye-tracking paradigm
This study examined the internal consistency and 6-month test–retest reliability of attentional bias indices derived from a free-viewing eye-tracking paradigm and found that the fixation indices for threat, sad, and positive images over the full 8-s display was moderate to excellent.
Neurophysiological correlates of attentional bias for emotional faces in socially anxious individuals – Evidence from a visual search task and N2pc
The results show that social anxiety may be characterized not only by a spatial attentional bias for threatening faces, but for emotional faces in general, and demonstrate the utility of the N2pc component in capturing subtle attentional biases.
Distinct electrocortical and behavioral evidence for increased attention to threat in generalized anxiety disorder
Background: Neural activity is increasingly used in addition to behavioral measures to study anxiety and attentional biases toward threatening stimuli. Event‐related potentials (ERPs) might be
Attentional disengagement from negative natural sounds for high-anxious individuals
The results demonstrate that impaired attentional disengagement was one of the mechanisms by which high-anxious participants exhibited auditory attentional bias to natural negative information.
Content specificity of attentional bias to threat in post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD patients show a content-sensitive attentional bias to emotional information and impaired cognitive control, and PTSD, but not healthy participants showed a stimulus specific dissociation in processing emotional stimuli.


Attentional bias in emotional disorders.
Recent research has suggested that anxiety may be associated with processing biases that favor the encoding of emotionally threatening information. However, the available data can be accommodated by
Do threatening stimuli draw or hold visual attention in subclinical anxiety?
It is concluded that threat-related stimuli affect attentional dwell time and the disengage component of attention, leaving the question of whether threat stimuli affect the shift component of Attention open to debate.
Anxiety and Attention to Threatening Pictures
  • J. Yiend, A. Mathews
  • Psychology, Medicine
    The Quarterly journal of experimental psychology. A, Human experimental psychology
  • 2001
It is concluded that attentional bias involves both a specific difficulty in disengaging attention from the location of any threat and a more general interference effect that is related to threat level.
The emotional Stroop effect in anxiety disorders: general emotional or disorder specificity?
Different attentional biases were observed: GAD patients were slowed by all types of emotional words, while SP patients were distracted specifically by speech-related words.
Selective processing of threat cues in anxiety states: a replication.
A replication of Mathews and MacLeod's study, using a modified Stroop task, confirmed that threat words selectively interfere with the colour-naming performance of generally anxious patients, compared with normal controls, and found no evidence of a subsequent recognition memory bias for the threat words in anxious Ss.
Selective processing of threat cues in anxiety states.
Results were interpreted as evidence that the individual content of danger schemata determine the type of material that is selectively processed, while the extent of interference observed depends on current anxiety level.
Attentional Biases for Facial Expressions in Social Phobia: The Face-in-the-Crowd Paradigm
The present study examines the attentional bias hypothesis for individuals with generalised social phobia (GSPs). Socially phobic individuals were hypothesised to exhibit attentional bias towards
Trait anxiety, anxious mood, and threat detection.
Abstract Subjects were required to detect either an angry or a happy target face in a stimulus array of 12 photographs. It was found with neutral distractor faces that those high in trait anxiety
Emotion drives attention: detecting the snake in the grass.
Participants searched for discrepant fear-relevant pictures (snakes or spiders) in grid-pattern arrays of fear-irrelevant pictures belonging to the same category (flowers or mushrooms) and vice
A cognitive-motivational analysis of anxiety.
According to this analysis, vulnerability to anxiety stems mainly from a lower threshold for appraising threat, rather than a bias in the direction of attention deployment, and relatively innocuous stimuli are evaluated as having higher subjective threat value by high than low trait anxious individuals.