Explicit memory bias for threat words in generalized anxiety disorder

Bruce H. Friedman, Julian F. Thayer, Thomas D. Borkovec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Although findings of an implicit memory bias for threat words in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are fairly robust, the data regarding an explicit bias in this disorder are less consistent. This issue was investigated in the context of two studies directed primarily at the examination of attentional and physiological underpinnings of GAD. In these experiments, GAD clients and nonanxious control participants (35 and 29 in Study 1, and 22 and 31 in Study 2, respectively) engaged in an S1-S2 conditioning procedure that involved the presentation of a series of neutral stimuli (colored dots) paired with threat and nonthreat words, followed by a free recall test. Instructions were to simply look at the dot and read the word silently. A free recall task was administered at the end of each experimental session. Contrary to previous trends in the literature, a marked bias in the GAD group toward recall of the threat words emerged in both studies. These results are considered in the light of methodological differences with previous research, information processing characteristics of GAD, and the role of physiological assessment in cognitive studies of anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-756
Number of pages12
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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