Anxiety moderates the interplay between cognitive and affective processing.

Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706-1696, USA.
Psychological Science (Impact Factor: 4.43). 09/2007; 18(8):699-705. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01963.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Evidence suggests that focus of attention and cognitive load may each affect emotional processing and that individual differences in anxiety moderate such effects. We examined (a) fear-potentiated startle (FPS) under threat-focused (TF), low-load/alternative-set (LL/AS), and high-load/alternative-set (HL/AS) conditions and (b) the moderating effect of trait anxiety on FPS across these conditions. As predicted, redirecting attentional focus away from threat cues and increasing cognitive load reduced FPS. However, the moderating effects of anxiety were specific to the LL/AS condition. Whereas FPS was comparable for high-anxiety and low-anxiety subjects in the TF and HL/AS conditions, FPS was significantly greater for high-anxiety than for low-anxiety subjects in the LL/AS condition. These results suggest that affective processing requires attentional resources and that exaggerated threat processing in anxious individuals relates to direction of attention rather than emotional reactivity per se.

Download full-text


Available from: Joseph P Newman, Jul 07, 2015
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Behaviorally, psychopathy and anxiety display opposite patterns of threat sensitivity and response inhibition. However, it is unclear whether this is due to shared or to separate underlying processes. To address this question, we evaluated whether the threat sensitivity of psychopathic and anxious offenders relates to similar or different components of Gray and McNaughton's (2000) Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory using a sample of 87 prisoners and a task that crossed threat onset with attentional focus. Psychopathy was associated with significantly weaker fear-potentiated startle (FPS) under conditions that presented threat cues after alternative, goal-directed cues. Conversely, anxiety was associated with significantly stronger FPS when threat appeared first and was the focus of attention. Furthermore, these differences were statistically independent. The results suggest that the abnormal sensitivity to threat cues associated with psychopathy and anxiety relate to different underlying processes and have implications for understanding the relationship between low- and high-anxious psychopathy.
    Cognitive Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience 05/2011; 11(4):451-62. DOI:10.3758/s13415-011-0041-2 · 3.21 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This work was conducted in an effort to better understand the role that activational mechanisms in memory play in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders. The affect of word stimuli characteristics, such as affective valence and semantic association with worry, on the association between inhibition and trait worry was investigated under different types of induced thought. Previous research has demonstrated that worry is associated with negative affect, and that worry may be semantically organized in memory. Based on these findings, it was hypothesized that words would be differentially inhibited in association with trait worry when worry was induced compared to neutral thought. Stimuli characteristics including the positive or negative affective valence of words, and their semantic association with common domains of worry were expected to moderate the relationship between inhibition and trait worry. In order to investigate these hypotheses, 86 undergraduate students from the University of Texas at Austin completed a series of memory tasks designed to measure inhibition for either negative or positive words, both associated and unassociated with worry. They underwent either idiopathic worry or neutral thought induction prior to completing each memory task, and completed questionnaires assessing trait worry and thought suppression. The findings provide partial support for the hypotheses. Higher levels of trait worry were associated with less inhibition of negative words, but more inhibition of positive words semantically associated with worry. Contrary to predictions, differential induction of worry did not affect the relationship between inhibition and trait worry. The research and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study examined the relationship between social anxiety and the neural processing of threat in faces. Twenty-one adults with different levels of society anxiety were tested for their event-related potential responses to unattended threatening and nonthreatening faces, presented upright and upside-down, at three points in time: 160-210 ms (vertex positive potential), 300-350 ms (N3) and 440-500 ms (P3). Social anxiety was significantly correlated with the size of P3 to upright angry faces but not happy faces. This supports the theory that anxiety diverts attention towards goal-irrelevant threat cues, and suggests that this threat-related shift in attention starts to affect the processing of faces at 440-500 ms.
    Neuroreport 09/2008; 19(13):1339-43. DOI:10.1097/WNR.0b013e32830baadf · 1.64 Impact Factor