Trait anxiety modulates supraliminal and subliminal threat: Brain potential evidence for early and late processing influences

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

Analysis of threat is thought to involve a "quick and dirty" stage in conjunction with slower processing that is more complete. We investigated both types of threat analysis by recording brain potentials in response to threat and neutral words. Personality testing was used to identify participants who were either high or low in trait anxiety (TA). An observed enhancement of occipital P1 potentials to threat words during an emotional Stroop task was interpreted as a signal of unconscious processing, since it was early, independent of whether word exposure was subliminal or supraliminal, and more prominent the higher the level of TA. Later positive potentials were also enhanced for threat versus neutral words, but the amplitude enhancement increased with higher TA only in the subliminal condition. These results suggest that unconscious analysis of threat is intensified in those prone to anxiety, as is a later stage of threat processing subject to dynamic interactions between automatic and strategic influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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