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Cognitive Biases in Anxiety, and Their Regulation by Executive Control



Robert W. Booth

(MEF University)

May 10, 2017 Wednesday
14:00 FASS 2034


Both clinically anxious and nonclinical highly-anxious people show certain habits of cognition, which we call cognitive biases. For example, they pay more attention to threat-related stimuli, they interpret ambiguous scenarios as being negative, and they overestimate the probability of bad things happening to them. In this talk, I will discuss the importance of executive control: recent evidence suggests that the biased attention and interpretation we see in anxiety are not intentional. Rather, the anxious individual tries to suppress and regulate their responses to potential threats, using the brain’s executive control systems. This means that people with poor executive control might be more vulnerable to developing anxiety disorders. I will discuss my research on how experimental impairments of executive control influence attention to threat, negative interpretation, and risk estimates in anxious people.