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Attentional bias towards angry faces in childhood anxiety disorders

Authors
Journal
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
0005-7916
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume
41
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2009.12.001
Keywords
  • Attentional Bias
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Children

Abstract

Abstract Objective To examine attentional bias towards angry and happy faces in 8–12 year old children with anxiety disorders (n=29) and non-anxious controls (n=24). Method Children completed a visual-probe task in which pairs of angry/neutral and happy/neutral faces were displayed for 500ms and were replaced by a visual probe in the spatial location of one of the faces. Results Children with more severe anxiety showed an attentional bias towards angry relative to neutral faces, compared with anxious children who had milder anxiety and non-anxious control children, both of whom did not show an attentional bias for angry faces. Unexpectedly, all groups showed an attentional bias towards happy faces relative to neutral ones. Conclusions Anxiety symptom severity increases attention to threat stimuli in anxious children. This association may be due to differing threat appraisal processes or emotion regulation strategies.

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