ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 7, Issue 3, 404-422, 2016
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The impact of childhood anxiety on processes of attentional executive control in the presence of emotional face distractors

  Georgiana Susa-Erdogan - Developmental Psychology Lab, Department of Psycho
  Oana Benga - Developmental Psychology Lab, Department of Psycho
  Ionut Mone - Developmental Psychology Lab, Department of Psycho
  Mircea Miclea - Department of Psychology, Babeş-Bolyai University,

Volume 7, Issue 3, 2016, Pages 404-422

 Anxiety interferes with executive control of attention (ECA), especially in the context of emotional information. Temperamental differences in self-regulation might modulate these effects. There are few studies on how anxiety differentially impairs ECA processes (inhibition, respectively attentional shifting), especially in children. The present research examined, in  a sample of primary-school children (N=100), the effects of anxiety on ECA processes, in the context of positive and threatening distractors, as well as whether self-regulation  modulates these effects. Anxiety was assessed with Spence Child Anxiety Scale (SCAS; Spence, 1998) and temperamental self-regulation  with The Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire  (EATQ-R, Ellis & Rothbart, 2001). For ECA processes, we designed a computerized letter discrimination task, employing a flanker type conflict for the inhibition process of ECA, and No-switch versus Switch trials for the shifting process of ECA, based on Gehring & Knight (2002). Emotional faces distractors were simultaneously displayed. Higher levels of anxiety were associated with larger flanker conflict in the presence of happy distractors.  Lower levels of temperamental inhibitory control were related to larger reaction times in the incompatible condition, during trials with  angry distractors.  Higher anxiety tended to be associated with higher shifting scores, in the presence of happy distractors. In conclusion, the present findings provide empirical evidence for the effects of emotional distracting information on the processes of executive control of attention in anxious children. These data are important, given that the ability to regulate behaviour in the context of emotional distracting information is one of several aspects that contributes to emotion regulation, and any perturbation in this ability might increase the vulnerability for the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders.

Table of Contents
 Questionnaire Measures
  Temperamental inhibitory control
  Temperamental attentional control
  Trait anxiety
 Experimental Task
  The Emotional letter discrimination task
 Preliminary Reaction Time and Error Analysis
  Reaction times
 Compatibility, Mixing Cost and Switching Cost Reaction Times and Errors
  Reaction times
 Effects of Individual Differences in Anxiety and Temperamental Inhibitory and Attentional Control
  Reaction times
Correlational analyses
Multiple regression analyses for the effects of anxiety, temperamental inhibitory control and their interaction on
emotion compatibility effect
Effects of Individual Differences in Anxiety and Temperamental Inhibitory and Attentional Control
 Accuracy data

Correspondence to
Dr. Oana Benga, Developmental Psychology Lab, Department of Psychology, Babes-Bolyai University, Republicii Str., No 37, 400015, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

childhood anxiety; executive control of attention; emotional distractors; temperament; self-regulation

Received 30 Nov 2015; Revised 24 Jun 2016; Accepted 24 Jun 2016; In Press 26 Jun 2016

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