Biased processing of emotional information in sub-clinical anxiety: Evidence from Simon effects

M.G.S. Schrooten*, F.T.Y. Smulders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We tested the idea that in high trait-anxiety, behavioural responses are influenced by spatial correspondence to emotional information. It is suggested that if an emotional stimulus is preferentially processed, it may act as if presented alone and yield a Simon effect: faster responses when stimulus and response spatially correspond than when not. High-trait-anxious undergraduates indeed showed a content-specific Simon effect for social-threat (not physical-threat) words that were presented together with a neutral word for 14 ms; they showed the reverse response pattern for positive words. Low-anxious undergraduates had no bias. When presentation time was lengthened to 500 ms, the response pattern for social-threat and positive words shown by high-anxious undergraduates reversed as compared to the pattern with 14 ms, but there were no significant group differences. These results can be taken to suggest that in high trait-anxiety, the processing of social-threat is specifically prioritized; social-threat and positive information may elicit an immediate response, counteracted by mood-regulation strategies. We argue that the present approach opens up interesting avenues for investigating biased information processing and response tendencies. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-696
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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