Cognitive theory from the field of general anxiety suggests that the tendency to display attentional bias toward negative information results in anxiety. Accordingly, the current study aims to investigate whether attentional bias is involved in math anxiety (MA) as well (i.e., a persistent negative reaction to math). Twenty seven participants (14 with high levels of MA and 13 with low levels of MA) were presented with a novel computerized numerical version of the well established dot probe task. One of six types of prime stimuli, either math related or typically neutral, was presented on one side of a computer screen. The prime was preceded by a probe (either one or two asterisks) that appeared in either the prime or the opposite location. Participants had to discriminate probe identity (one or two asterisks). Math anxious individuals reacted faster when the probe was at the location of the numerical related stimuli. This suggests the existence of attentional bias in MA. That is, for math anxious individuals, the cognitive system selectively favored the processing of emotionally negative information (i.e., math related words). These findings suggest that attentional bias is linked to unduly intense MA symptoms.
- Attentional bias
- Dot probe
- Math anxiety
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes