Effects of Anxiety on Attentional Allocation and Task Performance: An Information Processing Analysis
Behaviour Research and Therapy
An information processing signal detection methodology was employed to examine attentional allocation and its correlates in both normal comparison (NC) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) participants. In particular, the impact of neutral distractor and negative feedback cues on performance of an attention vigilance task was investigated. Individuals with GAD (N = 15) evidenced impaired performance on an attention vigilance task relative to NC participants (N = 15) when neutral distractor cues were presented. Contrary to prediction, no group differences in performance were detected under conditions in which participants were presented negative feedback cues they were told were relevant to their performance. Instead, GAD participants exhibited improvement during the experimental task such that their performance was equivalent to NC participants. Across trials, the clinically anxious group endorsed significantly higher levels of worry and negative affectivity; however, they failed to respond with concomitant physical arousal (e.g. increased muscle tension). These data are discussed within the context of Eysenck and Calvo's processing efficiency theory. Additionally, the results of this investigation provide support for Barlow's conceptualization of anxiety as requiring the interaction of cognitive schema and physiological arousal.
Attention vigilance, Generalized anxiety disorder, Information processing, Signal detection, Worry
Dibartolo, Patricia Marten; Brown, Timothy A.; and Barlow, David H., "Effects of Anxiety on Attentional Allocation and Task Performance: An Information Processing Analysis" (1997). Psychology: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
Archived as published. Open access article.