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The Influence of Anxiety Direction on Processing Bias

Martin Eubank, Dave Collins, and Nick Smith

In the presence of anxiety, threatening stimuli are allocated greater processing priority by high-trait-anxious individuals (Mathews, 1993). As anxiety direction (Jones, 1995) might best account for individual differences, this investigation aimed to establish whether or not such processing priority is a function of anxiety interpretation. Anxiety facilitators and debilitators performed a modified Stroop test (Stroop, 1935) by reacting to neutral, positive, and negative word types in neutral, positive, and negative mood conditions. A significant 3-way interaction, F(4,80) = 3.95, p < .05, was evident, with facilitators exhibiting a processing bias toward positive words in positive mood conditions. The data support the contention that anxiety interpretation is an important distinguishing variable in accounting for processing bias and support the potential contribution of cognitive restructuring practices to athletic performance.

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Anxiety and Ambiguity: It’s All Open to Interpretation

Martin Eubank, Dave Collins, and Nick Smith

Beck’s (1976) theoretical account of emotional vulnerability predicts that individuals who are vulnerable to anxiety will exhibit a cognitive processing bias for the threatening interpretation of ambiguous information. As anxiety direction (Jones, 1995) may best account for individual differences, the aim of this study was to establish whether such processing bias is a function of anxiety interpretation. Anxiety facilitators and debilitators underwent a modified Stroop test by reacting to neutral and ambiguous word types in neutral, positive, and negative mood conditions. A significant 3-way interaction, F(4, 60) = 3.02, p < .05, was evident, with the reaction time of facilitators being slowest for ambiguous words in the positive mood condition and debilitators being slowest for ambiguous words in the negative mood condition. The findings illustrate the important role that anxiety interpretation plays in the mechanism involved in the processing of ambiguous information.