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Inhibition of return (IOR) is a phenomenon observed when a target unexpectedly appears in the place of a preceding cue: With long cue-target stimulus onset asynchronies, reaction times are longer than for targets that appear in an alternative location. Cognitive theories of anxiety suppose that the IOR effect diminishes with threatening, biologically relevant cues because these catch and hold attention. To test this hypothesis, we conducted three experiments, in which emotional valence of cues (animals or facial expressions) had no influence on the strength of the IOR effect, neither in an unselected sample of students nor in highly spider-fearful or socially anxious participants. Inhibition of return appears to be a robust effect, blind to cue valence.

Original publication




Journal article


Cognition and Emotion

Publication Date





1433 - 1456