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Brain Cogn. 2007 Oct;65(1):22-35. Epub 2007 Jul 16.

Temperamental contributions to children's performance in an emotion-word processing task: a behavioral and electrophysiological study.

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Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA.


Seven-year-old children (N=65) participating in a study of the influence of infant temperament on socioemotional development performed an auditory selective attention task involving words that varied in both affective (positive vs. negative) and social (social vs. nonsocial) content. Parent report of contemporaneous child temperament was also collected, and individual differences in self-regulation in the affective (soothability) and cognitive (attentional control) domains were noted. Overall, children showed slower responses to stimuli that were either social or negative in content, with the largest effect elicited by words that possessed both traits. Children rated high in soothability and attentional control showed slower responses to social negative words. The other children showed little to no differential response patterns across the word categories. ERPs collected during the task indicated that processing differences were evident in the later more cognitive components of the ERP, especially in children low in attentional control. These findings indicate that performance on an auditory selective attention task can assist in identifying underlying patterns of affective processing.

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