Covert and overt attention in trait anxiety: a cognitive psychophysiological analysis

Niall M Broomfield, Graham Turpin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of threatening cues and anxiety upon attention within a Posner paradigm was investigated in two experiments. It was predicted anxious individuals would show a bias to threat-related material. Heart rate and eye movements were obtained to assess the attentional processes associated with this cognitive bias. Sixty and 40 participants were allocated respectively to groups based on self-reported scores of anxiety and repressive coping style. All participants were exposed to threat and non-threat cue words within a word based Posner cueing task. In the second study, spatial position of the target was manipulated, together with instructional set. Differential patterns of attentional disengagement to threat were found that were modulated by trait anxiety in study 2. A bias towards threat involving uninstructed eye movements was observed amongst anxious participants. Repressors made few such eye movements. Findings are discussed in relation to models of attentional deployment to threat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-200
Number of pages22
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date2 Jul 2004
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Attention
  • Eye Movements
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time

Cite this