ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 2, Issue 4, 475-489, 2011
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Attention Bias for Angry Faces in Children with Social Phobia

Allison M. Waters (a), Karin Mogg (b), Brendan P. Bradley (b), & Daniel S. Pine (c)
(a) Griffith University, Australia
(b) University of Southampton, UK
(c) National Institute of Mental Health, USA

Volume 2, Issue 4, 2011, Pages 475-489

Attention bias towards threatening stimuli is a well-established cognitive correlate of anxiety disorders. In tasks using angry faces, accumulating results link paediatric anxiety to biased attention. Nevertheless, at least in childhood social phobia, there is mixed evidence regarding the direction of this bias as some findings suggest that socially anxious children show increased attention bias towards threat, whereas other evidence suggests they have an increased bias away from threat. The present study examined attention bias for angry (and happy) faces in 27 children with a principal diagnosis of social phobia and 27 non-clinical healthy volunteers between 5 and 13 years of age. Children completed a visual probe task in which pairs of angry and neutral faces and happy and neutral faces were presented for 500 ms followed by an asterisk probe in either the same or opposite location as the emotional face. Participants were instructed to respond quickly by key-press to indicate the position of the probe. Results showed that only socially phobic children with high symptom severity showed a significant attention bias towards angry faces relative to neutral ones. In contrast, children with social phobia with lower levels of symptom severity showed a significant attention bias away from angry faces. Non-anxious volunteers showed no significant bias for angry faces. There were no significant between-group differences for happy faces. Results are discussed in terms of prior work on attention and emotion regulation.

Table of Contents
  Diagnostic status.
  Symptom measures.
  Attention bias.
  Anxious children.
  Healthy Volunteer Children.
 Data Analysis
 Group characteristics
 Visual probe task
  Angry faces.
  Happy faces.
 Correlations between anxiety measures and attention bias scores
 Clinical Implications

Correspondence to
Dr Allison Waters, School of Psychology, Griffith University, Australia.

attention bias; angry faces; children; social phobia

Received 9 Nov 2010; Revised 22 Apr 2011; Accepted 27 Apr 2011; In Press 11 Dec 2011

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