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Recent research suggests that it is possible to differentiate preconscious and strategic processing of threat stimuli using the Stroop colour naming task. masked and unmasked versions of the Stroop were administered to spider phobics, non-phobic controls and phobics whose fears did not include that of spiders. Colour naming times were recorded to neutral words, spider words and words whose emotionality was comparable to spider words. Results indicated that, in the unmasked condition only, the colour naming of spider words was slower in the spider phobics relative to both the other words types. Further analysis of the data indicated that this result was unlikely to be an effect of word emotionality and was specific to threat. Although the results are broadly consistent with information processing approaches to the understanding of anxiety, the value of this type of paradigm to the understanding of clinical anxiety is questionable.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





131 - 144


Adult, Animals, Arousal, Attention, Color Perception, Discrimination Learning, Female, Humans, Male, Personality Assessment, Phobic Disorders, Reaction Time, Semantics, Spiders, Verbal Behavior