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: Attentional biases toward threats (ABTs) have been described in high anxious individuals and in clinical samples whereas they have been rarely reported in non-clinical samples (Bar-Haim et al., 2007; Cisler and Koster, 2010). Three kinds of ABTs have been identified (facilitation, difficulty of disengagement, and avoidance) but their mechanisms and time courses are still unclear. This study aimed to understand ABTs mechanisms and timing in low trait anxiety (LTA) and high trait anxiety (HTA) anxious individuals. In particular, in an exogenous cueing task we used threatening or neutral stimuli as peripheral cues with three presentation times (100, 200, or 500 ms). The main results showed that HTA individuals have an attentional facilitation bias at 100 ms (likely automatic in nature) whereas LTA individuals show attentional avoidance and difficulty to disengage from threatening stimuli at 200 ms (likely related to a strategic processing). Such findings demonstrate that threat biases attention with specific mechanisms and time courses, and that anxiety levels modulate attention allocation.Frontiers in Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology. 01/2014;
- Revista de Psiquiatria do Rio Grande do Sul 12/2008; 31(3).