Interpretation of ambiguous situations: evidence for a dissociation between social and physical threat in Williams syndrome

Helen Dodd, Melanie Porter

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Abstract

There is increasing evidence that Williams syndrome (WS) is associated with elevated anxiety that is non-social in nature, including generalised anxiety and fears. To date very little research has examined the cognitive processes associated with this anxiety. In the present research, attentional bias for non-social threatening images in WS was examined using a dot-probe paradigm. Participants were 16 individuals with WS aged between 13 and 34 years and two groups of typically developing controls matched to the WS group on chronological age and attentional control ability respectively. The WS group exhibited a significant attention bias towards threatening images. In contrast, no bias was found for group matched on attentional control and a slight bias away from threat was found in the chronological age matched group. The results are contrasted with recent findings suggesting that individuals with WS do not show an attention bias for threatening faces and discussed in relation to neuroimaging research showing elevated amygdala activation in response to threatening non-social scenes in WS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-274
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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