Conscious intrusion of threat information via unconscious priming in anxiety

Wen Li*, Ken A. Paller, Richard E. Zinbarg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-62
Number of pages19
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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