USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Publications


Children’s Sustained Attention to Emotional Facial Expressions and Their Autonomic Nervous System Reactivity during Parent-Child Interactions

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Max Owens

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The way individuals process socio-affective information is thought to impact their responses to social interactions, but research testing the relation between these processes is scarce, particularly among children. This study examined if children’s attention to socio-affective stimuli was associated with their autonomic nervous system (ANS) reactivity during parent-child interactions. Children’s sustained attention to facial expressions of emotion (afraid, happy, sad) was indexed using the late positive potential (LPP) event-related potential (ERP) component during a computer-based task. To measure ANS reactivity, children’s respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) was assessed at baseline and during positive and negative parent-child discussions. Enhanced LPP amplitudes in response to all emotional facial expressions, reflecting greater sustained attention to socio-affective stimuli, were associated with increased RSA reactivity during parent-child discussions. These results show correspondence between two psychophysiological substrates of emotion processing in healthy children and highlight how these systems may be synergistic forces contributing to emotion reactivity.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.