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Behav Res Ther. 1997 Jan;35(1):49-58.

An information processing model of anxiety: automatic and strategic processes.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Philadelphia 19104-4102, USA.


A three-stage schema-based information processing model of anxiety is described that involves: (a) the initial registration of a threat stimulus; (b) the activation of a primal threat mode; and (c) the secondary activation of more elaborative and reflective modes of thinking. The defining elements of automatic and strategic processing are discussed with the cognitive bias in anxiety reconceptualized in terms of a mixture of automatic and strategic processing characteristics depending on which stage of the information processing model is under consideration. The goal in the treatment of anxiety is to deactivate the more automatic primal threat mode and to strengthen more constructive reflective modes of thinking. Arguments are presented for the inclusion of verbal mediation as a necessary but not sufficient component in the cognitive and behavioral treatment of anxiety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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