Selective attentional biases for physical threat in physical anxiety sensitivity

Edmund Keogh, Catherine Dillon, George Georgiou, Caroline Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (SciVal)


Anxiety sensitivity is a trait susceptibility associated with the fear of anxiety-related sensations. One reason why such fears exist may be because those high in anxiety sensitivity selectively attend towards such sensations. However, few studies have actually investigated these cognitive biases in high anxiety sensitive individuals. The current study, therefore, sought to investigate selective attentional biases using the visual dot-probe paradigm. Since recent research suggests that at least one component of anxiety sensitivity is linked to the fear of physical sensations, individual were selected on the basis as to whether they were high or low in their anxious concern for physical sensations. In order to determine whether a general or specific attentional bias exists, the emotionality of material presented to participants was varied in terms of whether it was physically threat-related, socially threat-related, or positive. Consistent with predictions, those high in physical anxiety sensitivity were found to exhibit a selective attentional bias in favour of the location of physically threatening material. Furthermore, those low in anxiety sensitivity were found to avoid such material. Interestingly, a similar attentional bias was not found for either socially threatening or positive material. If anything, those high in physical anxiety sensitivity avoided positive material. These findings are discussed in light of current theories of anxiety sensitivity and future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-315
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001


  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Cognitive biases
  • Hypervigilance
  • Information processing
  • Selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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