Anxiety and selective attention to angry faces: An antisaccade study

Reinholdt-Dunne, M.L., Mogg, K., Benson, Valerie orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0351-4563, Bradley, B.P., Hardin, M.G., Liversedge, S.P., Pine, D.S. and Ernst, M. (2012) Anxiety and selective attention to angry faces: An antisaccade study. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 24 (1). pp. 54-65. ISSN 2044-5911

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Cognitive models of anxiety propose that anxiety is associated with an attentional bias for threat, which increases vulnerability to emotional distress and is difficult to control. The study aim was to investigate relationships between the effects of threatening information, anxiety, and attention control on eye movements. High and low trait anxious individuals performed antisaccade and prosaccade tasks with angry, fearful, happy, and neutral faces. Results indicated that high-anxious participants showed a greater antisaccade cost for angry than neutral faces (i.e., relatively slower to look away from angry faces), compared with low-anxious individuals. This bias was not found for fearful or happy faces. The bias for angry faces was not related to individual differences in attention control assessed on self-report and behavioural measures. Findings support the view that anxiety is associated with difficulty in using cognitive control resources to inhibit attentional orienting to angry faces, and that attention control is multifaceted.

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