Anxiety-Linked Differences in Older Adults’ Interpretation of Ambiguous Information

Isabel Cabrera, Ignacio Montorio, Colin MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cognitive models of anxiety propose that heightened anxiety vulnerability is characterized by a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations as threatening. The presence of such an interpretive bias has been confirmed in younger adults, using assessment measures that bypass the limitations of self-report and objectively assess interpretive processing. A recent pioneering study published in 2015 has sought to determine whether this anxiety-linked interpretive bias also is evident in older adults. However, their evidence supporting this hypothesis comes only from self-report measures and memory measures. The present study was designed to provide a stronger test of the hypothesis by objectively assessing interpretive process in high (n = 48) and low (n = 48) trait anxious older adults, using a text comprehension approach that circumvents reliance on self-report or memory measures. The findings were fully consistent with the hypothesis that older adults with higher levels of trait anxiety, compared to those with lower levels of trait anxiety, impose more threatening meanings on ambiguous information. These findings provide the first evidence, from an assessment approach that overcomes the limitations of self-report and memory measures, that elevated anxiety vulnerability in older adults is characterized by a negative interpretive bias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2016

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