Psychology, Department of



Debra A. Hope

Document Type


Date of this Version



Cognitive Therapy and Research 28:2 (April 2004), pp. 269–281.

doi: 10.1023/B:COTR.0000021545.79764.69


Copyright © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers/Springer. Used by permission.


Previous research suggests that worry is primarily a verbal-linguistic activity that may serve as a method of cognitive avoidance of fearful imagery. The purpose of the present study was to examine cognitive avoidance in high worriers (N = 22) and low worriers (N = 24) using psychophysiological measures and a modified dichotic listening task. The task involved presenting neutral words into an unattending ear while worry or neutral scenarios were presented into the attending ear. Participants were given a surprise word recognition test of the words presented to provide evidence of cognitive avoidance beyond self-report. Contrary to the hypotheses, high worriers did not have less physiological reactivity than did low worriers. Low worriers recognized more words than did high worriers overall. High worriers remembered more words from the worry scenario than the neutral condition, as would be expected if they attempted to avoid the worry scenario. Implications for treatment of worry and the use of the dichotic listening task in researching worry are discussed.

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