Attentional Biases for Threatening Faces in Children: Vigilant and Avoidant Processes

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Abstract

The authors examined the processing of threat-related information in childhood anxiety with the emotional Stroop task and the dot probe task. In study 1, a nonclinical sample of 112 pupils (mean age = 9 years) performed pictorial versions of both tasks. For each task, an index indicating a bias for threat processing was computed. Positive correlations were found between these indices and anxiety. When compared with the original emotional Stroop index, the absolute value of the emotional Stroop index was a better predictor of anxiety. It was possible to replicate this result in study 2 with 80 pupils (mean age = 8.6 years). Results are discussed with regard to vigilance and avoidance as basic mechanisms underlying performance on the tasks.

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