Insecurity primes influence attentional processing of infant emotions: the role of attachment styles

  • Yuanxiao Ma
  • Jiaxin Chen
  • Guangzeng Liu
  • Xu ChenEmail author


Insecure attachment is associated with an insensitive attentional processing of infant emotions, whereas secure attachment is more sensitive to perceiving infant signals. Regardless, whether exposure to reminders of insecure attachment can influence the attention processing of infant faces in securely and insecurely attached women remains unclear. The present study investigated the electrophysiological mechanism involved in attention function when preceded by insecurity primes. By means of ECR, we selected 21 nulliparous women with a secure attachment, 20 with an avoidant attachment, and 20 with an anxious attachment. Our results suggested that securely attached women allocated more attention resources to infant emotions, which was reflected by increased N1 and P2 amplitudes under insecurity primes. In contrast, insecurity primes led to the suppression of early selective attention (lower N1 amplitude) and later controlled attention (lower P3 amplitude) to infant emotions in both anxiously and avoidantly attached women. Furthermore, we also observed the inhibition of attentional processing (reflected by the P2 amplitude) in avoidantly attached women, who attended infant emotions under neutral primes but avoided them under insecurity primes. In conclusion, the present study implies that insecurity primes may push insecurely attached women to exhibit an insensitive attentional processing while elevating the allocation of attention resources to infant emotions in securely attached women.


Insecurity primes Infant emotions Attachment style Attentional processing Event-related potentials 


Funding Information

The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Grant number 31771232 and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. SWU1809353).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuanxiao Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jiaxin Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guangzeng Liu
    • 1
  • Xu Chen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of PsychologySouthwest University (SWU)ChongqingChina
  2. 2.Chongqing Collaborative Innovation Center For Brain ScienceChongqingChina

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