Psychological Research

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 189–195

Cognitive functioning and anxiety


  • Michael W. Eysenck
    • Department of Psychology, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of London
  • Colin MacLeod
    • St. George's Hospital Medical School
  • Andrew Mathews
    • St. George's Hospital Medical School

DOI: 10.1007/BF00308686

Cite this article as:
Eysenck, M.W., MacLeod, C. & Mathews, A. Psychol. Res (1987) 49: 189. doi:10.1007/BF00308686


Various possible differences in cognitive functioning between those high and low in trait anxiety are considered. Particular emphasis is paid to the hypothesis that individuals high in trait anxiety tend to approach threatening stimuli, whereas those low in trait anxiety tend to avoid such stimuli. The evidence indicates that there are such differences in the processing of threatening stimuli as a function of trait anxiety. However, these differences are found only under certain conditions, for example, when threatening and nonthreatening stimuli are presented concurrently, and when minor rather than major threat is involved.

The differences between those high and low in trait anxiety encompass pre-attentive, attentional, and interpretative mechanisms. As a consequence, any adequate theory of trait anxiety must take proper account of cognitive mechanisms and functioning.

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© Springer-Verlag 1987