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Attention can be guided by expectations stemming from long-term memories. In addition to such endogenous cues, exogenous salient stimuli capture attention, such as those conveying threat. This study examined the extent to which threatening distractors affect the employment of memories in guiding attention, and whether this is affected by trait anxiety. Emotional distractors were incorporated into a speeded target detection task, in which memory cues were presented simultaneously with task irrelevant emotional faces. Fearful face distractors disrupted target detection significantly more than neutral faces and the additional disruption to task performance from fearful compared with neutral faces was positively correlated with trait anxiety scores. The current findings of attentional capture by threat in the context of a second, powerful endogenous driver of attention underscore the magnitude of anxiety-related attention to threat. That is, threatening stimuli are sufficiently salient to induce prolonged disruption to goal directed behavior in anxious individuals. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

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