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The study investigated how attention to negative (threatening) and positive social-evaluative words is affected by social anxiety, trait anxiety and the expectation of social threat. High and low socially anxious individuals carried out a modified dot-probe task either while expecting to give a speech or under non-threatening conditions. High socially anxious individuals showed no significant attentional bias towards or away from social-evaluative words. This result significantly contrasted with an identical design that showed avoidance of emotional faces in high socially anxious participants drawn from the same population (Mansell et al., 1999). Participants who expected to give a speech showed less attentional avoidance of negative and positive social-evaluative words. High trait anxiety was associated with selective attention to negative relative to positive social-evaluative words, consistent with earlier findings of attention to threat cues in high trait-anxious individuals. Implications for designing attention tasks and attentional bias across different dimensions of anxiety are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Anxiety, Stress and Coping

Publication Date





19 - 29