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Characterising attentional biases to infant related stimuli associated with anxiety during pregnancy

Williams, Kate (2011) Characterising attentional biases to infant related stimuli associated with anxiety during pregnancy. University of Bath.

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Abstract

Attention is a key mechanism in the aetiology and maintenance of anxiety, a state commonly found in primiparous women during pregnancy. Recent research indicates an independent casual connection between antenatal anxiety and poor infant outcome, an area where attentional bias towards negative infant information could be an important mediating factor. Using the laboratory-based dot probe paradigm (MacLeod, Mathews & Tata, 1986), this study aimed to replicate findings indicating that healthy individuals will selectively attend to infant over adult faces of a neutral expression. Additionally, the study extends previous work by exploring the impact of emotional expressions in infant faces. The possible moderating effects of anxiety levels and pregnancy status were considered. No main effects or interactions were seen in the study. This suggests participants did not show attentional prioritisation to any of the stimuli, regardless of their anxiety or pregnancy status. Implications and possible explanations for the absence of findings are discussed in the context of the antenatal anxiety literature.

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