The Role of Anxiety Sensitivity, Behavioral Inhibition, and Cognitive Biases in Anxiety Symptoms: Structural Equation Modeling of Direct and Indirect Pathways


  • This study was funded in part by a Pennsylvania Psychological Foundation Award.

  • We thank students Anyaliese Hancock and Kali Falnes for their assistance.

Please address correspondence to: Andres G. Viana, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 N. State Street, Jackson, MS 39216. E-mail:



Limited research has examined how temperamental (i.e., behavioral inhibition, anxiety sensitivity) and cognitive (i.e., interpretive and judgment biases) risks for the development anxiety covary to influence anxiety symptoms. Thus, the present study aimed to advance understanding of the direct and indirect links between anxiety sensitivity, behavioral inhibition, and interpretive biases, and judgment biases (in the form of perceived control) to anxiety outcomes (i.e., worry and trait anxiety symptoms).


842 emerging adults (mean = 18.75 years, standard deviation = 1.05; age range = 18–24; 70% women) recruited from a university in the northeast participated in this study. Participants completed a battery of self-report measures assessing risk factors and anxiety outcomes of interest.


Structural equation modeling revealed anxiety sensitivity and behavioral inhibition were directly linked with anxiety outcomes. Anxiety sensitivity and behavioral inhibition were also indirectly linked with anxiety outcomes through interpretive and judgment biases. The hypothesized model was partially invariant across high-risk and low-risk groups for anxiety disorders.


Results of this study provide preliminary support for theoretical models hypothesizing a developmental progression from temperamental to cognitive risks and culminating in the expression of anxiety symptoms. Limitations and clinical implications of this research are discussed. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Clin. Psychol. 00:1-20, 2012.