Time-course of attentional biases for threatening faces in youth with anxiety disorders and nonclinical controls

Alison Mary Lindner
Cognitive-behavioral theories of youth anxiety (e.g., Kendall, 1985; Kendall & Ronan, 1990) posit that distortions in the way youth process information may play a role in the etiology and maintenance of these disorders. Research measuring attention allocation for emotional stimuli can test sophisticated models of cognitive processes in youth anxiety disorders, such as the vigilance-avoidance model. The vigilance-avoidance model of anxiety suggests that anxious individuals may demonstrate an
more » ... ntional bias toward threatening stimuli at the involuntary stages of information processing but then avoid further processing of that stimuli through disengagement or redirection of attention (Williams, Watts, MacLeod, & Mathews, 1988). The current study used a dot-probe task to assess attentional biases for angry, happy, and sad faces at both 500 and 1250 ms in youth diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and nonclinical control youth in order to test the time-course of attentional biases for threatening cues in youth anxiety. Participants were forty-two youth between the ages of 8-1&, with half meeting criteria for a principal anxiety disorder and half serving as a nonclinical control group. All youth completed a structured interview, dot-probe task and paper and pencil questionnaires. When using our full sample of subjects, results from our study did not support the vigilance-avoidance model of anxiety in youth. Additionally, there was no difference between clinically anxious youth and nonclinical control youth on bias scores for angry, happy or sad faces. However, we found partial support for the vigilance-avoidance model when testing only the Caucasian subjects.
doi:10.7282/t3w66htg fatcat:3jcdem7arvg2baqgkbhm5tjsd4