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Recent research suggests that early difficulties with emotion regulation go along with an increased risk for developing psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorders for example. Adolescent anxiety is often referred to as a gateway disorder, due to its high predictability for lifelong persistent mental health problems. It has been shown that clinically anxious adolescents exhibit attention biases toward negative stimuli, yet whether these biases can also be found in the subclinical range of subclinically anxious adolescents is currently unclear. In this study, we set out to investigate this question by combining an emotional Go-Nogo task with eye-tracking techniques to assess attention biases for emotional faces in a subclinical sample of 23 subclinically anxious adolescent girls. This combined approach allowed us to look at both, behavioral and covert attention biases. Using both traditional and Bayesian hypothesis testing, we found no evidence for a bias toward negative, threat-relevant stimuli in the behavioral level or eye-tracking data. We believe that the results can help close a gap in the current literature by showing that like low-anxious adolescents, subclinically anxious adolescents do not exhibit attention biases when viewing de-contextualized emotional stimuli in the Overlap task. Together with previous research findings in clinically anxious participants which have reported high levels of attention biases, our results seem to suggest that attention biases do no increase linearly as a function of individual anxiety level. Future research is now needed to explore the contribution of additional factors, such as depression for example.

Original publication

DOI

10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01584

Type

Journal article

Journal

Front Psychol

Publication Date

2018

Volume

9

Keywords

adolescence, anxiety, emotion processing, eye-tracking, individual differences, pupil dilation