Full Program »
27. Top-Down Factors in Threat-Related Perceptual Decision-Making in Anxiety
Clinically, anxiety is characterized by its anticipatory nature; however, very little is known about how anticipatory threat cues influence attention and perception in anxiety. Cues in our environment can provide information about the threatening or neutral nature of upcoming targets as well as the likelihood of encountering these targets. In line with the RDOC transdiagnostic approach, we measured key characteristics of anxiety, intolerance to uncertainty (IU) and behavioral avoidance (BA), in participants diagnosed with and without anxiety disorders. Participants performed two decision-making tasks in which they used threatening or neutral cues to discriminate between threatening and neutral faces. When cues indicated 75% likelihood of encountering a cued target (N=49), IU and BA were associated with slower detection of neutral faces following threatening cues (r=.284, p<.05; r=.389, p<.01). When cues provided no likelihood information, IU was additionally associated with worse perceptual sensitivity and increased false alarms following threatening cues (r=-.271, p<.05; r=.336=, p<.01). Although previous studies have focused predominantly on bottom-up stimulus-related characteristics, these results emphasize the importance of including top-down predictive factors in models of threat-related perceptual decision-making in anxiety.