Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 410
Cognitive Bias/selective attention/cognitive psychology/Matthews: Unconscious bias: is bias unconscious or does it reflect a voluntary strategy of active search for potential threats? (See Matthews and Wells 2000(1)). It is plausible that both types of process may be involved. Mathews and Mackintosh (1998)(2) proposed a dual-process approach, within which bias is produced initially by an automatic threat evaluation system, but may be compensated by voluntary effort.
Anxiety: Evidence for an automatic process comes from studies showing that anxiety-related bias in attention may be demonstrated even when stimuli are presented subliminally so that they cannot be consciously perceived (Fox 1996)(3). On the other hand, bias appears to be sensitive to conscious expectancies and operates over a longer time period than a simple automatic bias would predict (Matthews and Wells 2000(1); Phaf and Kan 2007)(4).
Other studies have confirmed that anxious persons tend to ‘lock onto’ potential sources of threat and are slow to disengage attention (Derryberry and Reed 1997(5), 2002(6)).
Anxiety effects are not restricted to slower disengagement, and various other specific attentional mechanisms are implicated (Calvo and Avero 2005(7); Matthews, Derryberry and Siegle 2000(8)). Thus, attentional bias may be a product of several interacting processes, and careful computational modelling may be needed to understand this anxiety effect (Hudlicka 2004)(9).



1. Matthews, G. and Wells, A. 2000. Attention, automaticity and affective disorder, Behaviour Modification 24: 69–93
2. Mathews, A. and Mackintosh, B. 1998. A cognitive model of selective processing in anxiety, Cognitive Therapy and Research 22: 539–60
3. Fox, E. 1996. Selective processing of threatening words in anxiety: the role of awareness, Cognition and Emotion 10: 449–80
4. Phaf, R. H. and Kan, K. 2007. The automaticity of emotional Stroop: a meta-analysis, Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 38: 184–99
5. Derryberry, D. and Reed, M. A. 1997. Motivational and attentional components of personality, in G. Matthews (ed.), Cognitive science perspectives on personality and emotion, pp. 443–73. Amsterdam: Elsevier
6. Derryberry, D., & Reed, A. 2002. Anxiety-related attentional biases and their regulation by attentional control, Journal of Abnormal Psychology 111: 225–36
7. Calvo, M. G. and Avero, P. 2005. Time course of attentional attentional bias to emotional scenes in anxiety: gaze direction and duration, Cognition and Emotion 19: 433–51
8. Matthews, G., Derryberry, D. and Siegle, G. J. 2000. Personality and emotion: cognitive science perspectives, in S. E. Hampson (ed.), Advances in personality psychology, vol. I, pp. 199–237. London: Routledge
9. Hudlicka, E. 2004. Beyond cognition: modeling emotion in cognitive architectures, in M. Lovett, C. Schunn, C. Lebiere and P. Munro (eds.), Proceedings of the sixth international conference on cognitive modeling, ICCCM 2004, Integrating models, pp. 118–23. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum



Gerald Matthews, „ Personality and performance: cognitive processes and models“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Matthews, Gerald
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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