Processing of emotional faces in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders

Kristy E. Benoit*, Richard J. McNally, Ronald M. Rapee, Amanda L. Gamble, Amy L. Wiseman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to test whether children and adolescents with anxiety disorders exhibit selective processing of threatening facial expressions in a pictorial version of the emotional Stroop paradigm. Participants named the colours of filters covering images of adults and children displaying either a neutral facial expression or one displaying the emotions of anger, disgust, or happiness. A delay in naming the colour of a filter implies attentional capture by the facial expression. Anxious participants, relative to control participants, exhibited slower colour naming overall, implying greater proneness to distraction by social cues. Children exhibited longer colour-naming latencies as compared to adolescents, perhaps because young children have a limited ability to inhibit attention to distracting stimuli. Adult faces were associated with slower colour naming than were child faces, irrespective of facial expressions in both groups, possibly because adults provide especially salient cues for children and adolescents. Inconsistent with prediction, participants with anxiety disorders were not slower than healthy controls at naming the colours of filters covering threatening expressions (i.e., anger and disgust) relative to filters covering faces depicting happy or neutral expressions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-194
Number of pages12
JournalBehaviour Change
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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