Attentional control deficits in trait anxiety: Why you see them and why you don't

  • Berggren N
  • Derakshan N
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Attentional Control Theory (ACT; Eysenck et al., 2007; Derakshan and Eysenck, 2009) posits that trait anxiety interferes with the inhibition, shifting and updating processes of working memory. Consequently, high anxious individuals are predicted to perform worse on cognitively demanding tasks requiring efficient cognitive processing. Whilst a growing number of studies have provided support for this view, the possible underlying mechanisms of this deficiency are far less understood. In particular, there is conflicting neuroscientific evidence with some work showing associations between anxiety and increased neural activity over frontal areas, while others report reduced activity. We review recent evidence that has helped elucidate the cognitive hallmarks of trait anxiety, and suggest how previous discrepancies can be accommodated within ACT's prediction that reduced cognitive efficiency may be ameliorated by strategies such as compensatory effort. Finally, we discuss if ACT's distinction on efficiency and effectiveness can be applied to threat-related processing, often shown to additively override attentional control in anxiety. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Attentional control
  • Processing efficiency

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  • Nick Berggren

  • Nazanin Derakshan

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