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Previous studies of biased information processing in anxiety addressed biases of attention and memory, but little is known about the processes taking place between them: visual working memory (VWM) and monitoring of threat. We investigated these processes with a change detection paradigm. In Experiment 1, spider fearfuls (SF) and non-anxious controls (NAC) judged two subsequently presented displays as same or different. The displays consisted of several pictures, one of which could depict a spider. In Experiment 2, SF and NAC, both without snake fear, were tested with displays including either a spider or a snake image to determine the material-specificity of biased VWM. Both groups showed increased change detection for threat images. This effect was significantly stronger in SF, for spider images only, indicating a threat-specific VWM bias. Thus, contrary to the assumptions made by most cognitive models of anxiety, an explicit memory bias was found.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.brat.2010.05.003

Type

Journal article

Journal

Behav Res Ther

Publication Date

08/2010

Volume

48

Pages

770 - 778

Keywords

Adult, Animals, Anxiety, Bias, Fear, Humans, Memory, Short-Term, Phobic Disorders, Photic Stimulation, Snakes, Spiders, Visual Perception