Executive Attention Control Impairments and Social Anxiety Symptoms in Children

Marie Louise Reinholdt-Dunne*, Andreas Blicher, Mike Rinck, Anke Klein

*Corresponding author for this work

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Impairments in executive attention control, such as the ability to inhibit processing task-irrelevant information, are believed to play a key role in the development and maintenance of social fear and anxiety. However, the underlying attentional mechanisms related to social anxiety are not well understood. The aim of the present study was to investigate associations between actual and perceived executive attention control deficits and social anxiety symptoms in children. Participants included 134 school children drawn from the community between the ages of 8–13 years. Children completed the Attention Network Task (ANT) along with self-report measures of executive attention control and social anxiety. The ANT is a reaction-based task that assesses alerting, orienting, and control of executive attention. Results showed that only self-reported executive attention control was negatively associated with heightened levels of social anxiety. Also, objectively and subjectively measured executive attention control were not related to each other. Findings suggest that social anxiety may only be associated with perceived deficits and not with an actual impairment of executive attention control. Further studies are needed to examine the role of actual versus perceived deficits in childhood social anxiety.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychopathology
Issue number2
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Executive attention control
  • Social anxiety
  • Children
  • Attention network task

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