Attentional bias toward fear-related stimuli: An investigation with nonselected children and adults children with anxiety disorders

Allison M. Waters*, Ottmar V. Lipp, Susan H. Spence

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research investigating anxiety-related attentional bias for emotional information in anxious and nonanxious children has been equivocal with regard to whether a bias for fear-related stimuli is unique to anxious children or is common to children in general. Moreover, recent cognitive theories have proposed that an attentional bias for objectively threatening stimuli may be common to all individuals, with this effect enhanced in anxious individuals. The current study investigated whether an attentional bias toward fear-related pictures could be found in nonselected children (n = 105) and adults (n = 47) and whether a sample of clinically anxious children (n = 23) displayed an attentional bias for fear-related pictures over and above that expected for nonselected children. Participants completed a dot-probe task that employed fear-related, neutral, and pleasant pictures. As expected, both adults and children showed a stronger attentional bias toward fear-related pictures than toward pleasant pictures. Consistent with some findings in the childhood domain, the extent of the attentional bias toward fear-related pictures did not differ significantly between anxious children and nonselected children. However, compared with nonselected children, anxious children showed a stronger attentional bias overall toward affective picture stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-337
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume89
Issue number4 SPEC.ISS.
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Attentional bias
  • Children
  • Fear stimuli

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