Implicit memory bias and trait anxiety: A psychophysiological analysis

L.K. Harrison, G. Turpin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of threatening words and anxiety upon implicit memory performance was investigated. It was predicted that anxious individuals would show a bias to threat-related material. In addition, psychophysiological measures were obtained to assess the attentional and encoding processes that might underlie this cognitive bias. Forty participants were equally allocated to high and low trait anxious groups, according to pre-determined cut-offs. All participants were exposed to threat and non-threat words and following a filler task, were asked to complete primed and unprimed wordstems. Implicit memory performance was assessed in terms of accuracy and reaction time for completion. Heart rate and electrodermal responses were measured. Results demonstrated initial increased cardiac deceleration to threat stimuli, subsequent cardiac acceleration to non-threat stimuli, and an implicit memory bias to non-threat material by all participants. These findings are discussed in relation to the ‘vigilance-avoidance’ model of attention to threat stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-114
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jan 2003
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Implicit memory
  • Trait anxiety
  • Attention
  • Heart rate responses
  • Electrodermal responses
  • Wordstem completion


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