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J Anxiety Disord. 2001 May-Jun;15(3):147-59.

The emotional Stroop effect in anxiety disorders: general emotional or disorder specificity?

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  • 1Department of Clinical Psychology, TU, Dresden, Germany.


Selective attentional biases, often documented with a modified Stroop task, are considered to play an important role in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety. Two competing explanations for these effects are selectivity for highly emotional words in general vs. selectivity for disorder-specific words. We tested these explanations in 32 patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), 29 patients with social phobia (SP), and 31 non-anxious controls. Stimuli were of four kinds: GAD-related words, SP-related words, words with a neutral valence, and words with a positive valence. 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.

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