COVID-19, attentional bias, and trait anxiety

Anxious individuals selectively attend to threatening information, but it remains unclear whether attentional bias can be generalized to traumatic events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous studies suggested that specific threats related to personal experiences can elicit more substantial attentional bias than general threats. The current study investigated the relationship between content-specific attentional bias and trait anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study found participants with high trait anxiety exhibited attentional bias toward COVID-19-related stimuli and attentional bias away from general threat-related stimuli. In contrast, participants with low trait anxiety showed attentional bias away from both types of stimuli. Results suggest that individuals with high trait anxiety show a content-specific attentional bias to COVID-19-related information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from the innate attentional bias toward biological threats, individuals with high trait anxiety may also learn from trauma and develop trauma-specific attentional bias.

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