The role of worrisome thinking in the suppression of cardiovascular response to phobic imagery

T. D. Borkovec, James D. Lyonfields, Susan L. Wiser, Laura Deihl

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128 Scopus citations


Speech-fearful subjects repeatedly imagined a phobic image while heart rate and subjective reports of fear were monitored. Subject groups differed according to the type of mental activity that preceded each image. One group thought about a relaxing situation (Relaxation) and one group engaged in worrisome thinking (General-Worry). Three other groups were pre-trained to worry during their pre-image mentation periods with an emphasis on: (a) the thoughts; (b) the images; or (c) the affect experienced during worry. Cardiovascular effects occurred only on the first image presentation. Thought-Worry produced significantly less heart rate response than did Relaxation; the other worry conditions fell nonsignificantly between these two groups. Within-group correlations between heart rate response to the image and the reported predominance of thought relative to imagery during the preceding mentation period showed that: (a) greater worrisome thinking in General-Worry was related to less cardiovascular response; and (b) greater relaxed thinking in Relaxation was associated with greater cardiovascular response. These results support the hypothesis that it is the worrisome thinking aspect of worry that may inhibit the emotional processing of phobic material and that Gray's mismatch theory of anxiety elicitation may account for these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-324
Number of pages4
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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