Doug G. Heck

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The purpose of this study was to assess the rela tionships between trait anxiety, visual attention and perceptual closure. A neuropsychological model proposed by Pribram and McGuinness (1975) and elaborated by Tucker and Williamson (in press) is used as a basis for the con cepts of attention, arousal, and cognition used in this paper. Specific, lateralized attentional systems, that of Activation and Arousal, are described and implicated in influencing perceptual closure in trait-anxious subjects. It was hypothesized that high trait-anxious subjects would perform less successfully on the closure task than the low trait-anxious subjects would, while exhibiting a higher eye-movement rate than the low trait-anxious sub jects. A pilot study was conducted to help determine para meters for the present study.

The Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger 1968) was administered to 408 undergraduate male and female psychology students. From this group, a group of high trait-anxious and a group of low trait- anxious subjects who were familial right-handers were then determined. The Mooney Closure Faces Test (Mooney 1951) was the task selected. A series of 24 slides were shown to the subject for 10 seconds apiece at a visual angle of 7 degrees. From the subjects' descriptions, it was determined if they had seen the face in the slide. With the subject's permission, the session was videotaped through a two-way mirror in front of the subject. From this videotape, an eye movement rate for each subject was determined, using four raters. T-test analyses were used to determine differences in group means.

The results of this study showed that the high trait anxious subjects recognized significantly fewer Mooney Faces than did the low trait-anxious subjects. No signifi cant differences in eye movement rate were present, but the differences were in the predicted direction, however. No sex differences were present.

This paper discusses the implications that stimulus parameters and individual differences in anxiety have on perceptual closure. The relationship between the informa tion processing capacities of the cerebral hemispheres, anxiety, and eye movements are described and implications for understanding cognition and perception in pathological states of anxiety are discussed.