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J Abnorm Psychol. 2003 Aug;112(3):323-38.

Selective attention to facial emotion in physically abused children.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 53706-1696, USA.


The ability to allocate attention to emotional cues in the environment is an important feature of adaptive self-regulation. Existing data suggest that physically abused children overattend to angry expressions, but the attentional mechanisms underlying such behavior are unknown. The authors tested 8-11-year-old physically abused children to determine whether they displayed specific information-processing problems in a selective attention paradigm using emotional faces as cues. Physically abused children demonstrated delayed disengagement when angry faces served as invalid cues. Abused children also demonstrated increased attentional benefits on valid angry trials. Results are discussed in terms of the influence of early adverse experience on children's selective attention to threat-related signals as a mechanism in the development of psychopathology.

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