Attentional biases in human anxiety

Emilio A. Valadez*, Daniel S. Pine, Nathan A. Fox, Yair Bar-Haim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Across clinical and subclinical samples, anxiety has been associated with increased attentional capture by cues signaling danger. Various cognitive models attribute the onset and maintenance of anxiety symptoms to maladaptive selective information processing. In this brief review, we 1) describe the evidence for the relations between anxiety and attention bias toward threat, 2) discuss the neurobiology of anxiety-related differences in threat bias, 3) summarize work investigating the developmental origins of attention bias toward threat, and 4) examine efforts to translate threat bias research into clinical intervention. Future directions in each area are discussed, including the use of novel analytic approaches improving characterization of threat-processing-related brain networks, clarifying the role of cognitive control in the development of attention bias toward threat, and the need for larger, well-controlled randomized clinical trials examining moderators and mediators of treatment response. Ultimately, this work has important implications for understanding the etiology of and for intervening on anxiety difficulties among children and adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104917
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • Attention bias
  • Development
  • Intervention
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Temperament
  • Threat


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