Why worry? The cognitive function of anxiety.
ABSTRACT The phenomenon of worry is considered to arise from cognitive processes involved in anxiety, that serve to maintain high levels of vigilance for personal danger. Rather than rely on self-report alone, the research described here draws on information processing methodology, to investigate this hypothesized cognitive function. Evidence is summarized to show that anxious subjects selectively attend to threatening information, and interpret ambiguous events in a relatively threatening way. However, the evidence on memory suggests that although such information may be easily activated, it is not necessarily more accessible. The allocation of attentional priority to threatening information is seen as a characteristic of anxious (rather than depressed) mood, while the ease with which this processing mode is adopted may underlie trait anxiety and vulnerability to anxiety disorders.
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ABSTRACT: The dot-probe task is often considered a gold standard in the field for investigating attentional bias to threat. However, serious issues with the task have been raised. Specifically, a number of studies have demonstrated that the traditional reaction time (RT) measure of attentional bias to threat in the dot-probe task has poor internal reliability and poor test-retest reliability. In addition, although threatening stimuli capture attention in other paradigms, attentional bias to threat has not usually been found in typical research participants in the dot-probe task. However, when attention is measured in the dot-probe task with the N2pc component of the event-related potential waveform, substantial attentional orienting to threat is observed, and the internal reliability is moderate. To provide a rigorous comparison of the reliability of this N2pc measure and the conventional behavioral measure, as well as to examine the relationship of these measures to anxiety, the present study examined the N2pc in conjunction with RT in the dot-probe task in a large sample of participants (N = 96). As in previous studies, RT showed no bias to threatening images across the sample and exhibited poor internal reliability. Moreover, this measure did not relate to trait anxiety. By contrast, the N2pc revealed a significant initial shift of attention to threat, and this measure was internally reliable. However, the N2pc was not correlated with trait anxiety, indicating that it does not provide a meaningful index of individual differences in anxiety in the dot-probe task. Together, these results indicate a serious need to develop new tasks and methods to more reliably investigate attentional bias to threat and its relationship to anxiety in both clinical and non-clinical populations.Frontiers in Psychology 12/2014; 5:1368. · 2.80 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The purpose of the present study was to examine the happiness and worry in adolescents and young adults, the effects of gender and age group in these constructs, and the role of happiness in prediction of worry. Participants were 200 adolescents and 200 young adults from Eghlid in Iran and they were selected through random sampling in this survey. A demographic questionnaire, the Oxford Happiness Inventory and the Ahwaz Worry Inventory were administrated during this study. Resulting data demonstrated that there are significant negative relationships between happiness and worry in adolescents and young adults. Findings rejected the effects of age group and gender-age interaction in happiness and worry but confirmed the role of gender. Also, happiness explained 34, 46 and 41% of worry variation in adolescents, young adults, and total sample respectively.
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ABSTRACT: Intolerance of uncertainty and the overestimation of threat contribute to the maintenance of anxiety; however, the interaction between uncertainty and threat perception has not been examined empirically. The current study examined the extent to which explicitness of uncertainty is involved in perceptions of, and responses to, scenarios about threatening situations. A series of systematically varied scenarios were used to examine whether manipulating uncertainty (implicit vs. explicit) and threat level (high vs. low) altered the perception of a situation as anxiety-inducing. Undergraduate participants (n = 373) responded to vignettes about common situations (e.g. taking an elevator) with ratings of anxiety and desire to perform a safety behavior. Results revealed that higher threat situations, and those in which uncertainty was made explicit, provoked higher ratings of anxiety and urge to perform a safety behavior. In addition, explicit uncertainty significantly increased anxiety and urge to perform a safety behavior at low, but not at high, levels of threat. Participants rated (via self-report) their hypothetical feelings as induced by vignettes, rather than actually experiencing these situations in vivo. We found evidence for "uncertainty-based reasoning," in which an individual perceives a situation as more anxiety-provoking (and is more likely to have the urge to perform a safety behavior) when the uncertain aspects of a situation are obvious or explicit, than when such uncertainty is merely implied or tacit. Implications for the understanding of "uncertainty-based reasoning" are discussed. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 12/2014; 47C:111-119. · 2.23 Impact Factor