The role of working memory in spatial selective attention for emotional facial expressions in social anxiety
Elias, Jason A
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Individuals with social anxiety show attentional bias for threat-related information (Asmundson & Stein, 1994; Bradley, Mogg, Falla, & Hamilton, 1998; MacLeod, Mathews, & Tata, 1986). Studies have used the probe detection task to index attentional bias. However, the cognitive processes that may cause such a bias remain unclear. There is emerging evidence that the contents of working memory may influence selective attention to stimuli in one's environment (Awh, Anllo-Vento, & Hillyard, 2000; Desimone, 1996; Downing, 2000). Prior to social or performance situations socially anxious people often report experiencing negative cognitions and imagery related to these situations. Consequently, the contents of working memory may bias attention toward negative aspects of the event (e.g., physiological arousal, ambiguous facial expressions, etc.). The present study examines this hypothesis by introducing a working memory task into a probe detection task.