The effects of anxiety on visual attention for emotive stimuli in primary school children
AdvisorsMaratos, Frances A.
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractAnxiety can be advantageous in terms of survival and well-being, yet atypically high levels may be maladaptive and result in the clinical diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. Several risk factors have been implicated in the manifestation of clinical anxiety, including cognitive biases. In recent years, a plethora of research has emerged demonstrating that anxious adults exhibit biases of attention for threatening stimuli, especially that which is biologically relevant (e.g., facial expressions). Specific components of attentional bias have also been identified, namely facilitated engagement, impaired disengagement, and avoidance. However, the majority of studies have focused on the spatial domain of attention. Furthermore, the area is under-researched in children, despite research demonstrating that symptoms relating to clinical and non-clinical anxiety follow a stable course from childhood through to adolescence and adulthood. Consequently, the aim of this thesis was to investigate how anxiety affects children’s visual attention for emotive, particularly angry, faces. In order to provide a more comprehensive understanding, the current research involved examining the role of temporal and spatial attention utilising rapid serial visual presentation with the attentional blink, and the visual probe paradigm, respectively. The main hypothesis was that high state and/or trait anxiety would be associated with an attentional bias for angry, relative to positive or neutral faces in both the temporal and spatial domains. In relation to the temporal domain, key findings demonstrated that high levels of trait anxiety were associated with facilitated engagement towards both angry and neutral faces. It was further found that all children rapidly disengaged attention away from angry faces. Findings related to the processing of angry faces accorded with the main hypothesis stated in this thesis, as well as research and theory in the area. The finding that anxious children preferentially processed neutral faces in an attentional blink investigation was unexpected. This was argued to potentially reflect this stimulus type being interpreted as threatening. Key findings regarding the spatial domain were that high trait anxious children displayed an early covert bias of attention away from happy faces and a later, overt bias of attention away from angry faces. The finding that high trait anxiety was linked to an attentional bias away from happy faces in a visual probe task was also unexpected. This was argued to potentially reflect smiling faces being interpreted as signifying social dominance, thus resulting in the viewer experiencing feelings of subordination and becoming avoidant and/or submissive. To conclude, this thesis has enhanced current knowledge of attentional bias in both the temporal and spatial domains for emotive stimuli in anxious children. It has demonstrated that higher levels of trait anxiety moderate children’s allocation of attentional resources to different stimulus types, whether these are threatening, positive, or neutral. This has important implications for evaluating past research in adults and children, and for further developing theoretical models of attentional bias and anxiety. It also offers important clinical implications, since attending towards or away from specific stimuli may affect the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Recently, a treatment that aims to modify attentional bias in anxious individuals has begun to be developed. In light of the present findings, it may be necessary to review this treatment so that anxious children are re-trained in the specific biases of attention demonstrated here.
PublisherUniversity of Derby
TypeThesis or dissertation
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Emotion based attentional priority for storage in visual short-term memorySimione, Luca; Calabrese, Lucia; Belardinelli, Marta Olivetti; MARUCCI, Francesco Saverio; RAFFONE, Antonino; Maratos, Frances A.; University of Derby (PLOS, 2014-05-01)A plethora of research demonstrates that the processing of emotional faces is prioritised over non-emotive stimuli when cognitive resources are limited (this is known as ‘emotional superiority’). However, there is debate as to whether competition for processing resources results in emotional superiority per se, or more specifically, threat superiority. Therefore, to investigate prioritisation of emotional stimuli for storage in visual short-term memory (VSTM), we devised an original VSTM report procedure using schematic (angry, happy, neutral) faces in which processing competition was manipulated. In Experiment 1, display exposure time was manipulated to create competition between stimuli. Participants (n = 20) had to recall a probed stimulus from a set size of four under high (150 ms array exposure duration) and low (400 ms array exposure duration) perceptual processing competition. For the high competition condition (i.e. 150 ms exposure), results revealed an emotional superiority effect per se. In Experiment 2 (n = 20), we increased competition by manipulating set size (three versus five stimuli), whilst maintaining a constrained array exposure duration of 150 ms. Here, for the five-stimulus set size (i.e. maximal competition) only threat superiority emerged. These findings demonstrate attentional prioritisation for storage in VSTM for emotional faces. We argue that task demands modulated the availability of processing resources and consequently the relative magnitude of the emotional/threat superiority effect, with only threatening stimuli prioritised for storage in VSTM under more demanding processing conditions. Our results are discussed in light of models and theories of visual selection, and not only combine the two strands of research (i.e. visual selection and emotion), but highlight a critical factor in the processing of emotional stimuli is availability of processing resources, which is further constrained by task demands.
When is a face a face? Schematic faces, emotion, attention and the N170Maratos, Frances A.; Garner, Matthew; Karl, Anke; Hogan, Alexandra M.; University of Derby (AIMS Press, 2015-09-11)Emotional facial expressions provide important non-verbal cues as to the imminent behavioural intentions of a second party. Hence, within emotion science the processing of faces (emotional or otherwise) has been at the forefront of research. Notably, however, such research has led to a number of debates including the ecological validity of utilising schematic faces in emotion research, and the face-selectively of N170. In order to investigate these issues, we explored the extent to which N170 is modulated by schematic faces, emotional expression and/or selective attention. Eighteen participants completed a three-stimulus oddball paradigm with two scrambled faces as the target and standard stimuli (counter-balanced across participants), and schematic angry, happy and neutral faces as the oddball stimuli. Results revealed that the magnitude of the N170 associated with the target stimulus was: (i) significantly greater than that elicited by the standard stimulus, (ii) comparable with the N170 elicited by the neutral and happy schematic face stimuli, and (iii) significantly reduced compared to the N170 elicited by the angry schematic face stimulus. These findings extend current literature by demonstrating N170 can be modulated by events other than those associated with structural face encoding; i.e. here, the act of labelling a stimulus a ‘target’ to attend to modulated the N170 response. Additionally, the observation that schematic faces demonstrate similar N170 responses to those recorded for real faces and, akin to real faces, angry schematic faces demonstrated heightened N170 responses, suggests caution should be taken before disregarding schematic facial stimuli in emotion processing research per se.
Perceptual cartoonification in multi-spatial sound systemsLennox, Peter; Myatt, Tony; University of Derby; University of York (2011-06-24)This paper describes large scale implementations of spatial audio systems which focus on the presentation of simplified spatial cues that appeal to auditory spatial perception. It reports a series of successful implementations of nested and multiple spatial audio fields to provide listeners with opportunities to explore complex sound fields, to receives cues pertaining to source behaviors within complex audio environments. This included systems designed as public sculptures capable of presenting engaging sound fields for ambulant listeners. The paper also considers questions of sound field perception and reception in relation to audio object scaling according to the dimensions of a sound reproduction system and proposes that a series of multiple, coordinated sound fields may provide better solutions to large auditorial surround sound than traditional reproduction fields which surround the audience. Particular attention is paid to the experiences since 2008 with the multi-spatial The Morning Line sound system, which has been exhibited as a public sculpture in a number of European cities.