Anxiety is characterized by anticipatory emotions as a response to potential threats. Despite knowledge of the effectivity of implementation intention in regulating emotion evoked by aversive stimuli, whether this method is effective in regulating anticipatory anxiety for potential threats remains unknown. To bridge this gap, this study applied a cue–target paradigm to induce anticipatory anxiety toward potential negative pictures among participants. Specifically, emotion feeling (no-regulation), goal intention, goal intention+response and implementation intention were administered to different groups to explore their regulatory effects on anticipatory anxiety. The results demonstrated a unique regulatory effect of implementation intention on anticipatory anxiety, regardless of the type of cue. However, this effect is absent under the goal intention and goal intention+response conditions. These findings suggest that implementation intention is effective in downregulating anticipatory anxiety. In addition, its regulatory effect cannot be attributed to a mere goal setup or the setup of goal and response combination, but should be accounted for by the setup of the situation–response contingency in addition to goal representation.
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This study is funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 31871103 and 31971018).
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