Trait vs. state anxiety in different threatening situations

Ansiedade traço versus ansiedade estado em diferentes situações de ameaça

Pollyana Caldeira Leal Tiago Costa Goes Luiz Carlos Ferreira da Silva Flavia Teixeira-Silva About the authors



Anxiety as a uni- or multidimensional construct has been under discussion. The unidimensional approach assumes that there is a general trait anxiety, which predisposes the individuals to increases in state anxiety in various threatening situations. In this case, there should be a correlation between state and trait anxiety in any situation of threat. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the correlation between trait and state anxiety in participants exposed to two different anxiogenic situations: interpersonal threat (Video-Monitored Stroop Test – VMST) and physical threat (third molar extraction – TME).


Participants with various levels of trait anxiety (general trait: State-Trait Anxiety Inventory – STAI, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; specific trait: Social Phobia Inventory, Dental Anxiety Scale) had their anxious state evaluated (STAI, self-evaluation of tension level, heart rate, electromyogram activity) before, during and after the VMST or the TME.


In VMST, trait anxiety correlated to state anxiety (psychological parameters) in all test phases. However, in TME, the only trait measurement that correlated to state anxiety (psychological parameters) was the Dental Anxiety Scale.


Trait anxiety correlates positively to state anxiety in situations of interpersonal threat, but not of physical threat.

Anxiety; test anxiety scale; personality

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