THE EFFECT OF ANXIETY ON REPETITION PRIMING FOR VISUAL STIMULI
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Anxiety strongly influences a person's experience by affecting, among others, cognition and learning. Theoretical models of anxiety indicate that the level of anxiety experienced by an individual affects how they analyze threat-related incoming information. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between anxiety and the difference in the time it takes to make simple decisions about repeatedly presented photographs. The study included 71 participants who completed a task based on the repetition priming effect. The photographs used for this task depicted human faces displaying a happy or fearful expression. The participants were presented twice with each photograph and were asked to indicate the gender of the face presented in the photograph. The outcome measure was the time that it took for each participant to react to the presented photographs. The findings indicate that anxiety, worry, and intolerance of uncertainty affect the perception of visual stimuli, such that people with higher anxiety, worry, or intolerance of uncertainty react differently to such stimuli. People with a history of a DSM-IV anxiety disorder diagnosis reacted faster to visual stimuli relative to healthy controls. The differences in information processing between people with high and low anxiety seem to provide support for cognitive theories that explain anxiety as the result of lack of habituation due to excessive avoidance and those that explain anxiety as the result of disproportionate allocation of cognitive resources.