The Effect of Task-Relevant and Irrelevant Anxiety-Provoking Stimuli on Response Inhibition

Kyle Wilson, Neil R. De Joux, Kristin M. Finkbeiner, Paul N. Russell, William S. Helton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The impact of anxiety-provoking stimuli on the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART; Robertson, Manly, Andrade, Baddeley, & Yiend, 1997), and response inhibition more generally, is currently unclear. Participants completed four SARTs embedded with picture stimuli of two levels of emotion (negative or neutral) and two levels of task-relevance (predictive or non-predictive of imminent No-Go stimuli). Negative pictures had a small but detectable adverse effect on performance regardless of their task-relevance. Overall, response times and rates of commission errors were more dependent upon the predictive value (relevance) of the pictures than their attention-capturing nature (i.e., negative valence). The findings raise doubt over whether anxiety improves response inhibition, and also lend support to a response strategy perspective of SART performance, as opposed to a mindlessness or mind-wandering explanation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-365
Number of pages8
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date3 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016
Externally publishedYes


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