Cognitive models of anxiety posit that an attentional bias to negative information plays a causal role in elevated anxiety vulnerability and dysfunction. There has been considerable recent interest in determining whether this attentional bias reflects facilitated attentional engagement with and/or impaired attentional disengagement from negative information. We concur with the claim of investigators who have noted that the methodologies previously employed to dissociate engagement and disengagement biases are not optimal for this purpose. In the present study, we employ a novel methodology, the Attentional Response to Distal vs. Proximal Emotional Information (ARDPEI) task, which enables the discrete assessment of these two types of attentional selectivity. The findings demonstrate that facilitated attentional engagement with and impaired attentional disengagement from negative information both characterise elevated anxiety vulnerability. Further, these biases represent distinctive facets of anxiety-linked attentional selectivity. We discuss the potentially differing roles that engagement and disengagement biases may play in the development and/or maintenance of anxiety vulnerability and dysfunction.
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