Anxiety and Attention

Individuals with trait anxiety and social anxiety have an attentional bias toward threatening information in their environment. These biases appear to not only characterise anxiety, but also to be causally implicated in its origin and maintenance. For example, when giving a speech, an individual with social anxiety favours attending to the one frowning, bored-looking face, while ignoring the neutral or smiling faces in the crowd. Such selective processing of environment can distort these individuals' experiences of events, and ultimately exacerbate their anxiety. The work in our lab is focused on improving our understanding of the cognitive processes that underlie such attentional biases.