Dynamics of attentional bias to threat in anxious adults: Bias towards and/or away?

Ariel Zvielli, Amit Bernstein, Ernst H.W. Koster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of the present study was to question untested assumptions about the nature of the expression of Attentional Bias (AB) towards and away from threat stimuli. We tested the idea that high trait anxious individuals (N =106; M(SD)age = 23.9(3.2) years; 68% women) show a stable AB towards multiple categories of threatening information using the emotional visual dot probe task. AB with respect to five categories of threat stimuli (i.e., angry faces, attacking dogs, attacking snakes, pointed weapons, violent scenes) was evaluated. In contrast with current theories, we found that 34% of participants expressed AB towards threat stimuli, 20.8% AB away from threat stimuli, and 34% AB towards some categories of threat stimuli and away from others. The multiple observed expressions of AB were not an artifact of a specific criterion AB score cut-off; not specific to certain categories of threat stimuli; not an artifact of differences in within-subject variability in reaction time; nor accounted for by individual differences in anxiety-related variables. Findings are conceptualized as reflecting the understudied dynamics of AB expression, with implications for AB measurement and quantification, etiology, relations, and intervention research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere104025
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 5 Aug 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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