You May Worry, But Can You Recognize Threats When You See Them?; Neuroticism, Threat Identifications, and Negative Affect


The second author acknowledges support from NIMH (MH 068241). Correspondence concerning this article can be directed to Maya Tamir, Department of Psychology, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. E-mail:


ABSTRACT The present studies sought to investigate the hedonic consequences of threat-identification skills at low and high levels of neuroticism. Such skills were assessed in terms of both speed (Study 1) and accuracy (Study 2) of identifying threatening objects in cognitive tasks. As predicted, threat-identification skills interacted with trait neuroticism in predicting subjective experiences. Specifically, individuals high in neuroticism experienced lower levels of negative affect during their everyday lives if they were also skilled in identifying threats in the cognitive tasks (Studies 1–2). Such skills did not matter at low levels of neuroticism. This interactive pattern was also replicated in the context of life domain satisfaction (Study 2). The results support the view that avoidance motivation encompasses multiple component processes, including some that are cognitive in nature, and specifically extends self-regulatory views of neuroticism. Of most importance, our data indicate that threat-identification skills can be hedonically beneficial, rather than costly, at high levels of neuroticism.