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    Experimentally induced and real-world anxiety have no demonstrable effect on goal-directed behaviour

    Gillan, C.M. and Vaghi, Matilde M. and Hezemans, F.H. and Van Ghesel Grothe, S. and Dafflon, J. and Brühl, A.B. and Savulich, G. and Robbins, T.W. (2021) Experimentally induced and real-world anxiety have no demonstrable effect on goal-directed behaviour. Psychological Medicine 51 (9), pp. 1467-1478. ISSN 0033-2917.

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    Background: Goal-directed control guides optimal decision-making and it is an important cognitive faculty that protects against developing habits. Previous studies have found some evidence of goal-directed deficits when healthy individuals are stressed, and in psychiatric conditions characterised by compulsive behaviours and anxiety. Here, we tested if goal-directed control is affected by state anxiety, which might explain the former results. Methods: We carried out a causal test of this hypothesis in two experiments (between-subject N = 88; within-subject N = 50) that used the inhalation of hypercapnic gas (7.5% CO2) to induce an acute state of anxiety in healthy volunteers. In a third experiment (N = 1413), we used a correlational design to test if real-life anxiety-provoking events (panic attacks, stressful events) are associated with impaired goal-directed control. Results: In the former two causal experiments, we induced a profoundly anxious state, both physiologically and psychologically, but this did not affect goal-directed performance. In the third, correlational, study, we found no evidence for an association between goal-directed control, panic attacks or stressful life eventsover and above variance accounted for by trait differences in compulsivity. Conclusions: In sum, three complementary experiments found no evidence that anxiety impairs goal-directed control in human subjects.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Matilde Vaghi
    Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2024 13:36
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2024 13:43


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