Fulcher, E., Mathews, A. and Hammerl, M.
Rapid acquisition of emotional information and
attentional bias in anxious children.
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 39 (3).
- Accepted Version
Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2007.08.003
This study reports on the relationship between evaluative learning (EL) and attentional preference in children with varying degrees of anxiety, as measured by the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children, and varying degrees of parental anxiety, as measured by scores on the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). In the first experiment, 3 age groups (7–8, 10–11 and adults with mean age 26.8
years) were compared on a novel EL method, in which neutral images ‘‘morphed’’ over 1 s into either smiling or angry adult faces. There were no differences in EL between the age groups—each showing a strong EL effect. In 2 subsequent experiments, we examined learning and attention to stimuli
following EL trials in 7- to 8-year olds. In Experiment 2, panic/separation anxiety (PSA) and the mothers’ BAI predicted the overall magnitude of EL. In addition, high PSA children were more likely to attend to a neutral stimulus previously paired with a negative stimulus than were low PSA children. In Experiment 3, only PSA was positively associated with the magnitude of EL. In the
attention trials, high PSA children had longer fixation times on frowning faces than did low PSA children but unlike Experiment 2 PSA was not associated with preferential attention towards stimuli with acquired negative valence. These results indicate that associations between learning, attention and emotional information can be influenced by separation anxiety and maternal anxiety.
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