- The time-course of threat processing in children: a temporal dissociation between selective attention and behavioral interference
- Anxiety, Stress and Coping
- Volume | Issue number
- 25 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
Faculty of Medicine (AMC-UvA)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
Although selective attention to threatening information is an adaptive mechanism, exaggerated attention to threat may be related to anxiety disorders. However, studies examining threat processing in children have obtained mixed findings. In the present study, the time-course of attentional bias for threat and behavioral interference was analyzed in a community sample of 8-18-year-old children (N=33) using a pictorial dot probe task. Threatening and neutral stimuli were shown during 17 ms (masked), 500 ms, and 1250 ms. Results provide preliminary evidence of an automatic attentional bias for threat at 17 ms that persists during later, more controlled stages of information processing (500 and 1250 ms). Furthermore, participants showed a delayed response to threat-containing trials relative to neutral trials in the 500 and 1250 ms condition, which may indicate interference by threat. Together, these results suggest that an attentional bias for threat precedes behavioral interference in children. Furthermore, results indicate that performance in daily life can be temporarily interrupted by the processing of threatening information. In addition, results of earlier studies into selective attention in children using tasks based on behavioral responses may have been confounded by interference effects of threat. For future studies, we recommend to take behavioral interference into account.
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