Trait Anxiety and Attention: Cognitive Functioning as a Function of Attentional Demands

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This study examined the relationship between trait anxiety and cognitive functioning, specifically response inhibition and conflict resolution, by comparing attention switching and sustained attention conditions in a dichotic-listening to words task. Results showed that high- as compared to low-anxiety participants had a lower hit rate in both attention conditions, a lower intrusion rate in the sustained attention condition, and greater difficulty shifting attention in the mixed condition. Furthermore, laterality-related findings revealed that high-anxiety participants had a lower hit rate when attention was directed to the left-ear (right hemisphere) and less intrusions when attention was directed right-ear (left hemisphere) than did the low-anxiety participants. The findings are interpreted based on attentional control and load theories as well as on the attentional model of hemisphere asymmetry, supporting the proposition that high anxiety is associated with an imbalance between bottom-up and top-down processes, and that anxiety may affect cognitive control under high cognitive load conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1830-1842
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Attention
  • Cognitive control
  • Hemispheric specialization
  • Top-down/bottom-up processing


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