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    Enhanced visual detection in trait anxiety under perceptual load

    Berggren, N. and Blonievsky, T. and Derakhshan, Nazanin (2013) Enhanced visual detection in trait anxiety under perceptual load. Perception 42 , p. 243. ISSN 0301-0066.

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    A classic debate in anxiety research is whether high anxiety is associated with enhanced visual attention, to allow monitoring of the visual environment for potential threats, or whether increased negative affect and arousal in anxiety lead to narrowing of attention. Previous results have been inconsistent, mainly due to the manipulation of anxiety within participants through mood induction techniques. Here, we asked whether self-report levels of trait/dispositional anxiety would demonstrate clearer evidence of enhanced or narrowed attention. Participants completed a visual search task of varying levels of perceptual load, while also instructed to detect whether an additional small stimulus appeared on trials. Anxiety did not modulate performance in the primary search task at any level of load, and did not affect critical stimulus (CS) detection under low load. We also replicated the standard finding that as load increased, CS detection dropped in a linear fashion. Importantly however, under high load, anxiety correlated with superior sensitivity for the CS, with shallower slope declines in sensitivity as load increased. These results provide the first direct evidence for increased perceptual capacity in trait anxiety, suggesting that a disposition to experience high levels of anxiety is associated with a hypervigilant mode of visual processing.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 05 May 2015 13:38
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:16


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