A developmental neuroscience perspective on affect-biased attention

Santiago Morales, Xiaoxue Fu, Koraly E. Pérez-Edgar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


There is growing interest regarding the impact of affect-biased attention on psychopathology. However, most of the research to date lacks a developmental approach. In the present review, we examine the role affect-biased attention plays in shaping socioemotional trajectories within a developmental neuroscience framework. We propose that affect-biased attention, particularly if stable and entrenched, acts as a developmental tether that helps sustain early socioemotional and behavioral profiles over time, placing some individuals on maladaptive developmental trajectories. Although most of the evidence is found in the anxiety literature, we suggest that these relations may operate across multiple domains of interest, including positive affect, externalizing behaviors, drug use, and eating behaviors. We also review the general mechanisms and neural correlates of affect-biased attention, as well as the current evidence for the co-development of attention and affect. Based on the reviewed literature, we propose a model that may help us better understand the nuances of affect-biased attention across development. The model may serve as a strong foundation for ongoing attempts to identify neurocognitive mechanisms and intervene with individuals at risk. Finally, we discuss open issues for future research that may help bridge existing gaps in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-41
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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