Characteristics of episodic future thinking in anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Jessica Du, David Hallford, Janie Busby Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Deficits in episodic future thinking (EFT) characteristics such as detail/vividness, specificity and the use of mental imagery are associated with psychopathology. However, whether these characteristics are associated with anxiety is not well understood. This article reports a systematic review and meta-analysis of research examining associations between anxiety and these EFT characteristics. Peer-reviewed studies that are published in the English language and contain at least one measure of anxiety and one measure of EFT characteristics were screened for inclusion in APAPsychINFO, CINAHL Plus and MEDLINE. Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria. Results indicated that anxiety was not significantly correlated with detail/vividness overall. However, this was qualified by a moderating effect of cue valence. This finding is consistent with the Attentional Control and Contrast Avoidance Theories of anxiety, whereby higher anxiety is related to high detail/vividness in future thinking in the context of negatively-valenced cues, and conversely lower detail/vividness for positively-valenced cues. Anxiety was not significantly associated with specificity or the use of mental imagery. While heterogeneity and the low number of studies examining particular associations limited the findings, the results provide insight into the current state of the field and have both theoretical and clinical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102162
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


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