Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Verbal worry facilitates attention to threat in high-worriers

Williams, Marc, Mathews, Andrew and Hirsch, Colette R. 2014. Verbal worry facilitates attention to threat in high-worriers. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 45 (1) , pp. 8-14. 10.1016/j.jbtep.2013.05.006

[thumbnail of 1-s2.0-S0005791613000426-main.pdf] PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (296kB)


Background and objectives Worry is predominantly a verbal-linguistic process with relatively little imagery. This study investigated whether the verbal nature of worry contributes to the maintenance of worry by enhancing attention to threat. It was hypothesised that verbal worry would lead to greater attentional bias to threat than imagery-based worry. Methods Fifty high-worriers were randomly assigned to one of two groups, one in which they were instructed to worry in a verbal way and one in which they worried in an imagery-based way, before completing a dot probe task as a measure of attention to threat-related words. Results Those who worried in verbal form demonstrated greater attentional bias to threat than did those who worried in imagery-based form. These findings could not be accounted for by group differences in personal relevance of or distress associated with worry topics, state mood following worry, levels of the relatedness of participants' worries to stimuli on the dot probe task, trait anxiety, general propensity to worry, nor adherence to the worry training. Limitations The present study only included word stimuli in the dot probe task; inclusion of images would allow for firmly rejecting the hypothesis that the attention effects observed following verbal worry were merely a result of priming verbal threat representations. Also, future studies could include a further control group that does not engage in any form of worry to ascertain that verbal worry increased attentional bias rather than imagery decreasing pre-existing attentional bias. Conclusions Possible mechanisms underlying this effect of verbal worry on attention to threat are discussed, together with clinical implications of the current findings.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0005-7916
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 April 2021
Date of Acceptance: 30 May 2013
Last Modified: 06 May 2023 00:42

Citation Data

Cited 40 times in Scopus. View in Scopus. Powered By Scopus® Data

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics