Attention Bias to Emotional Faces Varies by IQ and Anxiety in Williams Syndrome

Lauren M. McGrath*, Joyce M. Oates, Yael G. Dai, Helen F. Dodd, Jessica Waxler, Caitlin C. Clements, Sydney Weill, Alison Hoffnagle, Erin Anderson, Rebecca MacRae, Jennifer Mullett, Christopher J. McDougle, Barbara R. Pober, Jordan W. Smoller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) often experience significant anxiety. A promising approach to anxiety intervention has emerged from cognitive studies of attention bias to threat. To investigate the utility of this intervention in WS, this study examined attention bias to happy and angry faces in individuals with WS (N = 46). Results showed a significant difference in attention bias patterns as a function of IQ and anxiety. Individuals with higher IQ or higher anxiety showed a significant bias toward angry, but not happy faces, whereas individuals with lower IQ or lower anxiety showed the opposite pattern. These results suggest that attention bias interventions to modify a threat bias may be most effectively targeted to anxious individuals with WS with relatively high IQ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2174-2185
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Attention bias
  • Emotional faces
  • Social dot-probe
  • Williams syndrome


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