Controlling the Bias: Inhibitory Attentional Control Moderates the Association Between Social Anxiety and Selective Attentional Responding to Negative Social Information in Children and Adolescents

Ben Grafton, Laura Visu-Petra, Oana Mărcuş, Heather Liebregts, Colin MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
230 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Previous findings suggest that some children and adolescents characterised by elevated social anxiety vulnerability
attempt to regulate its debilitating consequences through attentional avoidance of negative social information. To
date, however, the dimension of cognitive variability that enables the effective execution of this emotionally beneficial
attentional strategy remains unknown. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that the capacity to effectively
attentionally avoid negative social information will be more evident in children and adolescents who exhibit higher
levels of inhibitory attentional control, relative to those who display lower levels of inhibitory attentional control.
Specifically, we recruited 115 children (aged 11 – 14 years old) from two public schools in Cluj-Napoca, Romania,
who varied widely in terms of their social anxiety vulnerability, as assessed by the Social Phobia subscale of the
Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale. These children completed a novel attentional assessment task
designed to provide measures of both inhibitory attentional control, and attentional bias to negative social information.
In keeping with the hypothesis under test, our present findings show that the association between social anxiety
vulnerability and attentional avoidance of negative social information was indeed more evident in socially anxious
children and adolescents with higher levels of inhibitory attentional control. We discuss ways in which future
investigators could build upon the present findings to further shed light on the cognitive factors that contribute to
vulnerability and resistance to developing social anxiety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-436
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychopathology
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

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