Distraction by vocal anger in children and adolescents with hyperactivity

Chronaki, Georgia orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5146-2510 and Marsh, John Everett orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9494-1287 (2024) Distraction by vocal anger in children and adolescents with hyperactivity. Journal of Cognitive Psychology . pp. 1-16. ISSN 2044-5911

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/20445911.2024.2313567


Children with inattention and hyperactivity often present difficulties in recognising anger from voices. Research has shown enhanced brain activity (N100) to vocal anger, possibly reflecting preattentive hyper-vigilance to vocal anger, in children with ADHD. In this study, we investigated the preattentive processing of vocal anger, by testing whether children with inattention and hyperactivity are distracted by task-irrelevant vocal anger stimuli. A total of 194 participants (50 adults, 51 adolescents, 93 children) participated in a cross-modal oddball paradigm wherein emotional (angry, happy) voices were oddballs and neutral voices were standard in a visual categorisation task. Questionnaire measures screened for inattention and hyperactivity. Reaction time measures demonstrated that overall, hyperactivity predicted slower performance via distraction by threat-related (angry) stimuli. The results suggest that vocal anger can capture attention in a pre-attentive (automatic) way in children with high levels of inattention and hyperactivity. Implications for theory and clinical practice are discussed.

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