Attentional bias in clinical depression and anxiety: The impact of emotional and non-emotional distracting information

L. Lichtenstein-Vidne, H. Okon-Singer, N. Cohen, D. Todder, T. Aue, B. Nemets, A. Henik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both anxiety and major depression disorder (MDD) were reported to involve a maladaptive selective attention mechanism, associated with bias toward negative stimuli. Previous studies investigated attentional bias using distractors that required processing as part of task settings, and therefore, in our view, these distractors should be regarded as task-relevant. Here, we applied a unique task that used peripheral distractors that presented emotional and spatial information simultaneously. Notably, the emotional information was not associated in any way to the task, and thus was task-irrelevant. The spatial information, however, was task-relevant as it corresponded with task instructions. Corroborating previous findings, anxious patients showed attentional bias toward negative information. MDD patients showed no indication of this bias. Spatial information influenced all groups similarly. These results indicate that anxiety, but not MDD, is associated with an inherent negative information bias, further illustrating that the two closely related disorders are characterized by different processing patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-12
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Anxiety
  • Attentional bias
  • Depression
  • Emotional distractors
  • Task-relevance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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