Patterns of attention to threat across tasks in behaviorally inhibited children at risk for anxiety

Santiago Morales, Bradley C. Taber-Thomas, Koraly E. Pérez-Edgar

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43 Scopus citations


Although attention bias towards threat has been causally implicated in the development and maintenance of fear and anxiety, the expected associations do not appear consistently. Reliance on a single task to capture attention bias, in this case overwhelmingly the dot-probe task, may contribute to this inconsistency. Comparing across attentional bias measures could help capture patterns of behavior that have implications for anxiety. This study examines the patterns of attentional bias across two related measures in a sample of children at temperamental risk for anxiety. Children (Meanage = 10.19 ± 0.96) characterized as behaviorally inhibited (N = 50) or non-inhibited (N = 64) via parent-report completed the dot-probe and affective Posner tasks to measure attentional bias to threat. Parent-report diagnostic interviews assessed children's social anxiety. Behavioral inhibition was not associated with performance in the dot-probe task, but was associated with increased attentional bias to threat in the affective Posner task. Cross-task convergence was dependent on temperament, such that attention bias across the two tasks was only related in behaviorally inhibited children. Finally, children who were consistently biased across tasks (showing high or low attentional bias scores in both tasks, rather than high in one but low in the other) had higher levels of anxiety. Convergence across attention bias measures may be dependent on individuals' predispositions (e.g. temperament). Moreover, convergence of attention bias across measures may be a stronger marker of information processing patterns that shape socioemotional outcomes than performance in a single task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12391
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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