Although individual differences in reactions to novelty in the toddler years have been consistently linked to risk of developing anxious behavior, toddlers' attention toward a novel, putatively threatening stimulus while in the presence of other enjoyable activities has rarely been examined as a precursor to such risk. The current study examined how attention toward an angry-looking gorilla mask in a room with alternative opportunities for play in 24-month-old toddlers predicted social inhibition when children entered kindergarten. Analyses examined attention to threat above and beyond and in interaction with both proximity to the mask and fear of novelty observed in other situations. Attention to threat interacted with proximity to the mask to predict social inhibition, such that attention to threat most strongly predicted social inhibition when toddlers stayed furthest from the mask. This relation occurred above and beyond the predictive relation between fear of novelty and social inhibition. Results are discussed within the broader literature of anxiety development and attentional processes in young children.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology