Selective inattention to anxiety-linked stimuli

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Abstract

Exp I explored the interaction of anxiety-linked inattention with strength of a target. Three female undergraduates were programmed under hypnosis to respond posthypnotically in the “On” condition with prescribed degrees of anxiety when certain Blacky pictures popped into mind at the end of trials; in the “Off” condition all pictures were to become neutral. Data yielded a curvilinear relationship in which recognition of only the loaded words was significantly lower in the On condition at the 60-70% range of accuracy but not at shorter or longer durations. Exp II, for which prior hypnotic programming of the same 3 Ss was similar to Exp I, used an anagram approach to 4-letter words, except that pleasure-loaded words were introduced as a control. Results indicate that both low perceivability and high solvability increased the likelihood of response delays in the presence of anxiety-linked stimuli. Exp III was a nonhypnotic replication of Exp II, using 12 male and 13 female undergraduates. The potential affective loading of key anxiety and pleasure words was accomplished by structured scenarios for the pictures in which Ss were asked to place themselves. Overall evidence suggestive of inhibitory delay in the case of anxiety-linked stimuli was found. A conceptual model of selective inattention is described; it stresses stages of amplification and attenuation and timing considerations in the processing of contents en route to consciousness. (35 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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