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Behav Res Ther. 1997 Apr;35(4):297-303.

Time course of attentional bias for threat information in non-clinical anxiety.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK.


A modified version of the probe detection task was used to investigate the effect of stimulus exposure duration on attentional bias for threat stimuli in a non-clinical sample of subjects. Stimulus duration was manipulated in order to examine different components of the anxiety-related attentional bias, i.e. initial orienting versus maintenance of attention to threat. Word pairs were presented on a computer screen for 100, 500 or 1,500 msec, and immediately after the termination of the display of each pair, a dot probe appeared in the position of one of the words. Higher levels of state anxiety were associated with faster response latencies for probes that replaced threat words, rather than neutral words (i.e. attentional vigilance for threat). This bias was not significantly affected by the exposure duration of the word stimuli. Thus, the attentional bias for threat does not appear to vary significantly over this range (100-1,500 msec) in non-clinical anxiety; it is recommended that the time course of the attentional bias be investigated further in clinical anxiety.

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