Cross-sectional evidence suggests that attention bias to threat is linked to anxiety disorders and anxiety vulnerability in both children and adults. However, there is a lack of developmental evidence regarding the causal mechanisms through which attention bias to threat might convey risks for socioemotional problems, such as anxiety. Gaining insights into this question demands longitudinal research to track the complex interplay between threat-related attention and socioemotional functioning. Developing and implementing reliable and valid assessments tools is essential to this line of work. This review presents theoretical accounts and empirical evidence from behavioral, eye-tracking, and neural assessments of attention to discuss our current understanding of the development of normative threat-related attention in infancy, as well as maladaptive threat-related attention patterns that may be associated with the development of anxiety. This review highlights the importance of measuring threat-related attention using multiple attention paradigms at multiple levels of analysis. In order to understand if and how threat-related attention bias in real-life, social interactive contexts can predict socioemotional development outcomes, this review proposes that future research cannot solely rely on screen-based paradigms but needs to extend the assessment of threat-related attention to naturalistic settings. Mobile eye-tracking technology provides an effective tool for capturing threat-related attention processes in vivo as children navigate fear-eliciting environments and may help us uncover more proximal bio-psycho-behavioral markers of anxiety.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health