Anxiety and Threat-Related Attention: Cognitive-Motivational Framework and Treatment

Published in: Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 22, Issue 3, 225-240

“Research in experimental psychopathology and cognitive theories of anxiety highlight threat-related attention biases (ABs) and underpin the development of a computer-delivered treatment for anxiety disorders: attention-bias modification (ABM) training. Variable effects of ABM training on anxiety and ABs generate conflicting research recommendations, novel ABM training procedures, and theoretical controversy. This article summarises an updated cognitive-motivational framework, integrating proposals from cognitive models of anxiety and attention, as well as evidence of ABs. Interactions between motivational salience-driven and goal-directed influences on multiple cognitive processes (e.g., stimulus evaluation, inhibition, switching, orienting) underlie anxiety and the variable manifestations of ABs (orienting towards and away from threat; threat-distractor interference). This theoretical analysis also considers ABM training as cognitive skill training, describes a conceptual framework for evaluating/developing novel ABM training procedures, and complements network-based research on reciprocal anxiety–cognition relationships.”

Written by: Karin Mogg, Brendan P. Bradley

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