Intolerance of uncertainty (IU), perceived attentional control (AC), and poor cognitive control abilities are risk factors for anxiety; however, few studies have examined their interactive effects in relation to anxiety. A more complete understanding of interplay between IU, perceived AC, and cognitive control could inform intervention efforts.
The current study examined the direct and interactive effects of IU and AC on anxiety in a sample of 280 community outpatients (M age = 36.01 years, SD = 16.17). Perceived AC was measured using self-report and cognitive control abilities were measured using a Go/No-Go task.
Findings indicated a significant IU by perceived AC interaction predicting worry and GAD diagnoses. There was a positive relation between IU and worry/GAD diagnoses that was strongest among those with high perceived AC. Perceived AC was unrelated to cognitive control abilities, and cognitive control abilities did not interact significantly with IU. Cognitive control abilities were related to worry symptoms but not to GAD diagnoses.
These results indicate that at high levels of perceived AC, individuals with elevated IU report higher levels of worry, potentially due to the conscious use of worry as an emotion regulation strategy. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.