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Anticipatory anxiety and risk perception

Abstract

This study tested the prediction that anxiety, arising from anticipation of a stressful examination (state anxiety), would be associated with an inflation of subjective risk in judgments of negative events related to oneself. The subjective probability of pleasant and unpleasant events was rated on two occasions, 1 month and 1 day before the examination date. Increases in anticipatory anxiety as the examination approached were associated with increased subjective risk of examination failure, while the more stable personality trait of anxiety was associated with perceived risk of all self-referred negative events whether or not they related to examinations. These results were taken as providing general support for a cognitive view of anxiety, in which a relationship exists between state anxiety and the accessibility of information relating to personal threat, while trait anxiety relates to the extent or range of such personally threatening information in memory.

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Additional information

This work was supported by grants from the Medical Research Council U.K. to both authors. We would like to thank Rebecca Sawtell for finding and interviewing the student subjects, and for ensuring an unusually low dropout rate.

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Butler, G., Mathews, A. Anticipatory anxiety and risk perception. Cogn Ther Res 11, 551–565 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01183858

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01183858

Key words

  • anxiety
  • subjective probability
  • cognitive processes