Increased processing time for threatening stimuli is a reliable finding in emotional Stroop tasks. This is particularly pronounced among individuals with anxiety disorders and reflects heightened attentional bias for perceived threat. In this repeated measures study, 35 healthy participants completed a randomized series of Stroop tasks involving colour-naming of neutral or threatening words concurrently accompanied by either silence or music. An emotional Stroop effect was evident under silent conditions. However, a significant interaction effect was detected indicating that in the music listening condition the expected interference was significantly diminished. The presence of music therefore may serve to relax the deployment of attentional mechanisms associated with the detection of threat. Putative modes of action are discussed with reference to effects of task-irrelevant stimuli on attentional distribution, effects of music on arousal and emotional state, and neural imaging studies of brain function. Potential clinical applications are briefly outlined.
- attentional bias
- emotional Stroop