Effects of vicarious disgust learning on the development of fear, disgust and attentional biases in children

Reynolds, Gemma ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2893-6380 and Askew, Chris (2018) Effects of vicarious disgust learning on the development of fear, disgust and attentional biases in children. Emotion . ISSN 1528-3542 [Article] (Published online first) (doi:10.1037/emo0000511)

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Fear and disgust are defensive emotions that have evolved to protect us from harm. While fear is thought to elicit an instinctive response to deal with immediate threat, disgust elicits immediate sensory rejection to avoid contamination. One mechanism through which disgust and fear may be linked is via attentional bias towards threat. Attentional bias is a well-established feature of anxiety disorders and is known to increase following vicarious fear learning. However, the contribution of vicarious learning to the development of disgust-related attentional biases is currently unknown. Furthermore, the influence of individual differences in disgust propensity and disgust sensitivity on fear and disgust responses has not been investigated in the context of vicarious learning. Therefore, 53 children aged 7-9 years were randomly assigned to receive either fear vicarious learning or disgust vicarious learning. Children’s fear beliefs, disgust beliefs, avoidance preferences and attentional bias were measured at baseline and post-learning. Findings demonstrated increased fear and disgust responding to stimuli following disgust and fear vicarious learning. Crucially, the study provided the first evidence that disgust vicarious learning can create an attentional bias for threat in children similar to that created via fear vicarious learning. However, there was no relationship between disgust propensity and sensitivity and vicariously acquired increases in fear, disgust and attention. In conclusion, both fear and disgust vicarious learning can create attentional bias, allowing rapid detection of potentially harmful stimuli. This effect could contribute to fear development and is found even in children who are not particularly high in disgust proneness.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
Item ID: 24751
Notes on copyright: © 2018, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors permission. The final article will be available, upon publication, at: https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000511
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Depositing User: Gemma Reynolds
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2018 09:04
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 19:38
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/24751

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