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In three experiments, high and low trait-anxious individuals were required to classify a centrally located number as odd or even while ignoring spatially separate threat-related or neutral words. It was found that high anxious subjects showed a selective bias to process threatening stimuli when the stimuli were pattern masked after a brief exposure (14msec). However, this automatic processing bias was apparent only under certain conditions: distractors were within focal attention; masked and unmasked distractors were randomly intermixed; or masked trials were presented after unmasked trials. These results suggest that automatic processing biases in high traitanxious individuals are influenced by contextual factors. There was also a suggestion of a qualitative difference in attentional bias between conscious (unmasked) and nonconscious (masked) states, providing evidence for perception without awareness. The theoretical implications of these results are discussed.

Original publication

DOI

10.1080/026999396380114

Type

Journal article

Journal

Cognition and Emotion

Publication Date

01/01/1996

Volume

10

Pages

449 - 480