Anxiety-Linked Attentional Bias: Is It Reliable?

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There is substantial evidence that heightened anxiety vulnerability is characterized by increased selective attention to threatening information. The reliability of this anxiety-linked attentional bias has become the focus of considerable recent interest. We distinguish between the potential inconsistency of anxiety-linked attentional bias and inconsistency potentially reflecting the psychometric properties of the assessment approaches used to measure it. Though groups with heightened anxiety vulnerability often exhibit, on average, elevated attention to threat, the evidence suggests that individuals are unlikely to each display a stable, invariant attentional bias to threat. Moreover, although existing assessment approaches can differentiate between groups, they do not exhibit the internal consistency or test-retest reliability necessary to classify individuals in terms of their characteristic pattern of attentional responding to threat. We discuss the appropriate uses of existing attentional bias assessment tasks and propose strategies for enhancing classification of individuals in terms of their tendency to display an attentional bias to threat. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology Volume 15 is May 7, 2019. Please see for revised estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-554
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Clinical Psychology
Early online dateJan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2019


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