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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- Creative Commons
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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.
Problematic social networking site use and comorbid psychiatric disorders: a systematic review of recent large-scale studies.Hussain, Zaheer; Griffiths, Mark D; University of Derby, UK; Nottingham Trent University, UK (Frontiers Media, 2018-12-14)Background and Aims: Research has shown a potential association between problematic social networking site (SNS) use and psychiatric disorders. The primary objective of this systematic review was to identify and evaluate studies examining the association between problematic SNS use and comorbid psychiatric disorders. Sampling and Methods: A literature search was conducted using the following databases: PsychInfo, PsycArticles, Medline, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. Problematic SNS use (PSNSU) and its synonyms were included in the search. Information was extracted based on problematic SNS use and psychiatric disorders, including attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, and stress. The inclusion criteria for papers to be reviewed were (i) being published since 2014 onwards, (ii) being published in English, (iii) having population-based studies with sample sizes >500 participants, (iv) having specific criteria for problematic SNS use (typically validated psychometric scales), and (v) containing empirical primary data reporting on the correlation between PSNSU and psychiatric variables. A total of nine studies met the predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Results: The findings of the systematic review demonstrated that most research has been conducted in Europe and all comprised cross-sectional survey designs. In eight (of the nine) studies, problematic SNS use was correlated with psychiatric disorder symptoms. Of the nine studies (some of which examined more than one psychiatric symptom), there was a positive association between PSNSU and depression (seven studies), anxiety (six studies), stress (two studies), ADHD (one study), and OCD (one study). Conclusions: Overall, the studies reviewed showed associations between PSNSU and psychiatric disorder symptoms, particularly in adolescents. Most associations were found between PSNSU, depression, and anxiety.