Anxiety and selective attention to angry faces: An antisaccade study

M. L. Reinholdt-Dunne, K. Mogg, V. Benson, B. P. Bradley, M. G. Hardin, S. P. Liversedge, D. S. Pine, M. Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Cognitive models of anxiety propose that anxiety is associated with an attentional bias for threat, which increases vulnerability to emotional distress and is difficult to control. The study aim was to investigate relationships between the effects of threatening information, anxiety, and attention control on eye movements. High and low trait anxious individuals performed antisaccade and prosaccade tasks with angry, fearful, happy, and neutral faces. Results indicated that high-anxious participants showed a greater antisaccade cost for angry than neutral faces (i.e., relatively slower to look away from angry faces), compared with low-anxious individuals. This bias was not found for fearful or happy faces. The bias for angry faces was not related to individual differences in attention control assessed on self-report and behavioural measures. Findings support the view that anxiety is associated with difficulty in using cognitive control resources to inhibit attentional orienting to angry faces, and that attention control is multifaceted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-65
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012


  • Angry faces
  • Antisaccade
  • Anxiety
  • Selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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