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Incentive sensitivity of children with anxiety on the Piñata task, a child-friendly version of the monetary incentive delay task

Friday, November 08, 2013 — Poster Session III

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center (Upper-Level Terrace)




  • DK Rosen
  • CO Carlisi
  • RC Plate
  • DS Pine
  • M Ernst


Researchers have found an association between behavioral/neural patterns of reward function and anxiety, employing the monetary incentive delay (MID) task in older participants, but not in children. Findings revealed no behavioral differences in reward response between anxious and healthy adolescents, perhaps due to the task’s abstract presentation. Based on the MID, we developed a child-friendly Piñata task. 14 children with GAD without SocPhob (11.85 ± 2.77), 27 children with SocPhob (with and without GAD) (12.19 ± 2.68), and 22 healthy children (12.58 ±2.63) completed the Piñata task. In this task, children are first shown piñatas with 4 possible rewards. Children are asked to “whack” the piñatas by pressing the spacebar fast enough before the piñatas disappear. Reaction time (RT) to correct responses across the whole task differed among diagnostic groups (p< 0.05), being slowest in GAD, intermediate in SocPhob, and fastest in controls. Across all children, the SCARED-Child was significantly correlated with RT (p< 0.05). The findings show that RT, but not accuracy, differed across diagnostic groups, with patients with GAD being the most impaired. The findings are consistent with Eysenck’s attention control theory of anxiety, which predicts that efficiency (RT) is affected by anxiety, but not efficacy (accuracy).

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