Perceiving the Self and Emotions with an Anxious Mind: Evidence from an Implicit Perceptual Task

Michella Feldborg, Naomi A. Lee, Kalai Hung, Kaiping Peng, Jie Sui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Anxiety disorders cause mental distress and low wellbeing in many people worldwide. Theories of anxiety describe negative worldviews and self-views as maintaining factors of the disorders. Recent research in social cognition has found a link between depression and altered perceptual biases to emotions, but the same research on anxiety is still missing. In this study, we measured perceptual biases to emotional and self-related stimuli in sub-clinically anxious participants and healthy controls using a self-emotional shape-label matching task. Results demonstrate that anxious participants had a diminished perceptual self-bias compared with healthy controls. Furthermore, the severity of anxiety was related to an emotional bias towards valanced other-related stimuli. The findings confirm the hypothesis that anxious individuals display an altered self-prioritisation effect in comparison with healthy individuals and that anxiety severity is linked to altered responses to emotionally valanced others. These findings have potential implications for early diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12096
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
Early online date18 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: This research was funded by Leverhulme Trust, grant number RPG-2019-010, and by University of Aberdeen Pump Priming Award, grant number SF10237-16.

Data Availability Statement

The data used to support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.


  • anxiety
  • mental health
  • positivity bias
  • self-prioritisation effect


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