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Attention disengagement is reportedly influenced by perceiving a fearful facial expression even in the first year of life. In the present study, we examined whether individual differences in disengaging from fearful expressions predict temperamental negative affectivity.
Twenty-six infants were studied longitudinally at 12, 18, 24, and 36months, using an overlap paradigm and two temperament questionnaires: the Japanese versions of the revised Infant Behavior Questionnaire and Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire.
The infants fixated significantly more frequently to fearful than to happy or neutral faces. The attentional bias to threat (i.e., the number of fixed responses on fearful faces divided by the total number of fixed responses on faces) at 12months was significantly positively correlated with negative affect at 12months, and its relations with negative affect measured later in development was in the expected positive direction at each age. In addition, a moderation analysis indicates that the orienting network and not the executive network marginally moderated the relation between early attentional bias and later fear.
The results suggest that at 12months, infants with more negative affectivity exhibit greater difficulty in disengaging their attention from fearful faces. We also found evidence that the association between parent-reported fear and disengagement might be modulated in the secondyear, perhaps because of the differences in temperamental control networks.