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J Abnorm Psychol. 2003 May;112(2):212-8.

Contrasting two accounts of anxiety-linked attentional bias: selective attention to varying levels of stimulus threat intensity.

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Department of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.


Previous research has established that clinical anxiety patients and nonclinical populations with high levels of anxiety vulnerability characteristically orient attention toward moderately threatening stimuli. In contrast, populations with low levels of anxiety vulnerability typically orient attention away from such stimuli. The differing experimental predictions generated by 2 classes of hypothetical explanation for this anxiety-linked attentional discrepancy were tested, using attentional probe methodology to compare the attentional responses of high and low trait anxious individuals to facial stimuli of differing threat intensities. The results support the view that all individuals orient attention away from mildly threatening stimuli and toward strongly threatening stimuli, with differences in anxiety vulnerability reflecting the intensity of stimulus threat required to elicit the attentional vigilance response.

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