Anxiety, attachment & attention

the influence of adult attachment style on attentional biases of anxious individuals

Yulisha Byrow*, Suzanne Broeren, Peter De Lissa, Lorna Peters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


The vigilance-avoidance model of attention, which proposes that anxious individuals will initially be vigilant towards, and subsequently will avoid, threatening stimuli (Mogg, Bradley, deBono & Painter, 1997) has received inconsistent support (Armstrong & Olatunji, 2012). Given that attention biases have been identified in studies examining adult attachment style (Dewitte & De Houwer, 2008), the aim of this study is to examine whether adult attachment style influences the relationship between anxiety and attention biases. The present study used a passive viewing eye-tracking task to examine the effect of anxiety and attachment style on attention to emotional images on initial presentation and over time. Participants were randomly allocated to receive either an anxiety induction (speech task) or not and viewed pairs of images (an emotional (either happy or angry) and neutral face) presented for 1.5 seconds. The results indicate that those exposed to the speech task who scored high on the avoidant attachment dimension were more likely to avoid attending to the emotional (angry and happy) stimuli initially and maintained this pattern of attention over the stimulus presentation time. While attachment avoidance moderated the relationship between attention and anxiety, an anxious attachment style did not have a significant effect. Thus, adult attachment style is an important individual difference to consider within the context of anxiety and attention biases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-128
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of experimental psychopathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • anxiety
  • attention bias
  • adult attachment
  • time course
  • eye-tracking

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