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Exploring links between anxiety, attention and social adjustment in youths and adults

Exploring links between anxiety, attention and social adjustment in youths and adults
Exploring links between anxiety, attention and social adjustment in youths and adults
A vast amount of research has found links between anxiety and attention biases towards threatening stimuli. Theoretical models of attention in anxiety focus on two main attentional pathways; these are selective attention to threat(e.g., Mogg & Bradley, 1998), where attention is automatically capture by threatening stimuli, and hypervigilance for threat (e.g., Richards, & Hadwin, 2011), where attention is spread across the visual field and threat is detected and processed by covert attention. Attentional control is argued to have a moderating role in the relationship between anxiety and attention biases to threat (i.e. attention biases to threat are most evident in anxious individual with low attentional control). In addition, research indicates that reduced attentional control and attention biases for threat stimuli are associated with poor social adjustment across development,including poor peer relationships and atypical social behaviour. The current thesis used an eye-movement paradigm to explore the relationship between anxiety, attention to threat and social adjustment in youths and adults. The remote distractor paradigm was used to measure attentional capture, as well as hypervigilance, for threat. In this paradigm, rapid eye movements to the angry face distractor provide evidence of attentional capture to threat. Slower latencies to initiate eye movements to the target in the presence of an angry distractor face provide evidence of hypervigilance for threat. Across three studies the results showed that anxious behaviour was unrelated to selective attention for threat. Instead the results showed that neuroticism (i.e. a personality trait characterised by increased levels of anxiety) was associated with hypervigilance for angry (but not happy or neutral) faces. In addition the current experiments revealed links between internalising traits (trait anxiety and neuroticism) and impaired inhibition of threat and social adjustment difficulties including poor performance during social interaction and low socio-metric status. The results from the current experiments are in line with previous research suggesting that anxiety is characterised by impaired inhibition of threat, where this is facilitated by a broad attentional beam. In addition, the current result fit theoretical models and empirical findings that highlight links between attentional mechanisms and poor social adjustment.
Pavlou, Katerina
ce567a69-e774-4556-8c7f-4fce07a47688
Pavlou, Katerina
ce567a69-e774-4556-8c7f-4fce07a47688
Hadwin, Julie
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Benson, Valerie
4827cede-6668-4e3d-bded-ade4cd5e5db5

(2015) Exploring links between anxiety, attention and social adjustment in youths and adults. University of Southampton, School of Psychology, Doctoral Thesis, 247pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

A vast amount of research has found links between anxiety and attention biases towards threatening stimuli. Theoretical models of attention in anxiety focus on two main attentional pathways; these are selective attention to threat(e.g., Mogg & Bradley, 1998), where attention is automatically capture by threatening stimuli, and hypervigilance for threat (e.g., Richards, & Hadwin, 2011), where attention is spread across the visual field and threat is detected and processed by covert attention. Attentional control is argued to have a moderating role in the relationship between anxiety and attention biases to threat (i.e. attention biases to threat are most evident in anxious individual with low attentional control). In addition, research indicates that reduced attentional control and attention biases for threat stimuli are associated with poor social adjustment across development,including poor peer relationships and atypical social behaviour. The current thesis used an eye-movement paradigm to explore the relationship between anxiety, attention to threat and social adjustment in youths and adults. The remote distractor paradigm was used to measure attentional capture, as well as hypervigilance, for threat. In this paradigm, rapid eye movements to the angry face distractor provide evidence of attentional capture to threat. Slower latencies to initiate eye movements to the target in the presence of an angry distractor face provide evidence of hypervigilance for threat. Across three studies the results showed that anxious behaviour was unrelated to selective attention for threat. Instead the results showed that neuroticism (i.e. a personality trait characterised by increased levels of anxiety) was associated with hypervigilance for angry (but not happy or neutral) faces. In addition the current experiments revealed links between internalising traits (trait anxiety and neuroticism) and impaired inhibition of threat and social adjustment difficulties including poor performance during social interaction and low socio-metric status. The results from the current experiments are in line with previous research suggesting that anxiety is characterised by impaired inhibition of threat, where this is facilitated by a broad attentional beam. In addition, the current result fit theoretical models and empirical findings that highlight links between attentional mechanisms and poor social adjustment.

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Published date: December 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton, Psychology

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Local EPrints ID: 402686
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/402686
PURE UUID: f6972325-2610-4b92-b6ce-f021ed81e656

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Date deposited: 05 Dec 2016 09:55
Last modified: 29 Jun 2018 04:01

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