Affect-biased attention is an automatic process that prioritizes emotionally or motivationally salient stimuli. Several models of affect-biased attention and its development suggest that it comprises an individual’s ability to both engage with and disengage from emotional stimuli. Researchers typically rely on singular tasks to measure affect-biased attention, which may lead to inconsistent results across studies. Here we examined affect-biased attention across three tasks in a unique sample of 193 infants, using both variable-centered (factor analysis; FA) and person-centered (latent profile analysis; LPA) approaches. Using exploratory FA, we found evidence for two factors of affect-biased attention: an Engagement factor and a Disengagement factor, where greater maternal anxiety was related to less engagement with faces. Using LPA, we found two groups of infants with different patterns of affect-biased attention: a Vigilant group and an Avoidant group. A significant interaction noted that infants higher in negative affect who also had more anxious mothers were most likely to be in the Vigilant group. Overall, these results suggest that both FA and LPA are viable approaches for studying distinct questions related to the development of affect-biased attention, and set the stage for future longitudinal work examining the role of infant negative affect and maternal anxiety in the emergence of affect-biased attention.
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