THE SPECIFICITY OF PERCEPTUAL PROCESSING IN ANXIOUS SUBJECTS: DIAGNOSTIC AND THERAPEUTIC IMPLICATIONS
Studies of anxiety reveal that emotionally loaded stimuli can be identified preattentively; thus, despite their inaccessibility, implicit processes are presumed to have an impact on a wide variety of responses. The present study is the expression of our interest in extending the investigation of the perceptive behavior of anxious subjects by enhancing the complexity of the perceptual context. At the same time, we aim to bring empirical support for the assumption of qualitative differences between the consequences of conscious and unconscious perception. In order to attain these goals we have set up a 2x2x2 factorial design controlling: a.) trait anxiety level (anxious/non-anxious subjects); b.) semantic-emotional context - by using homonym primes (neutral/negative); c.) priming procedure (sub-/supraliminal). Using a new experimental paradigm, our results: (1) reveal once more the strong connection between emotion and cognition; (2) show that, depending on the level of anxiety, human individuals can display a great variety of perceptual behaviors at the confrontation with anxiety-inducing stimuli; (3) offer strong evidence for the existence of qualitative differences between the consequences of unconscious /conscious perception.
KEYWORDS: anxiety, perception, unconscious cognition