Components of Attentional Bias to Threat in Clinically Anxious Children: An Experimental Study Using the Emotional Spatial Cueing Paradigm

Andreas Blicher, Marie Louise Reinholdt-Dunne

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Attentional bias to threat is believed to play a key role in the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders. However, the underlying attentional mechanisms related to anxiety are not well understood. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of cognitive therapy on the engagement and disengagement components of attentional bias to threat in clinically anxious children using the emotional spatial cueing paradigm. Anxiety was diagnosed using the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule and the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale. Results from 27 clinically anxious children and 27 control children (7–13 years old) indicated that clinically anxious children showed significantly faster engagement to angry faces than control children. Results also indicated that clinically anxious children showed significantly faster disengagement from angry faces before treatment in comparison to control children and significantly slower disengagement from angry faces after treatment than they did before treatment. Findings suggests that cognitive therapy reduces attentional avoidance of threat in clinically anxious children and challenges the assumption that results can be generalized from subclinical to clinical samples.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)884-892
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Engagement
  • Disengagement
  • Attentional bias
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Children
  • Spatial cueing

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