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Normal individuals high and low in trait-anxiety differ from each other in their attentional functioning. The visual probe experiment was used here to investigate whether subjects with a “repressive coping style” could be distinguished from high-and low-anxious subjects. The three groups were identified by use of the Marlowe-Crowne scale of social desirability and the Spielberger Trait-Anxiety Scale. As predicted, the task clearly distinguished between the groups. High-anxious subjects shifted visual attention toward socially threatening words, repressors shifted visual attention away from the same stimuli, and low-anxious subjects showed no consistent pattern of attentional allocation. These patterns were not observed for stimuli relating to physical threat. It is concluded that individuals reporting low anxiety cannot be considered as a homogeneous group. Theoretically, this is an important finding for the understanding of attentional biases and anxiety. © 1993, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Cognition and Emotion

Publication Date





207 - 215