Preferential processing of threat has been implicated in the development and perpetuation of anxiety. We investigated threat processing and anxiety using a subliminal priming paradigm. People with high or low trait anxiety viewed masked, briefly presented words, and then took an exclusion-completion test in which three-letter stems were to be completed without using recently perceived words. Completion rates were greater for words viewed subliminally compared to a baseline estimate. In addition, unconscious priming was greater for threat than for neutral words in the high-trait-anxiety group, and for neutral than for threat words in the low-trait-anxiety group. Enhanced unconscious priming of threat completions among anxious individuals may model intrusions in anxiety, when unconscious processing breaks into consciousness in the form of threat-related intrusive thoughts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)