The role of attention in the affective life of people with severe or profound intellectual disabilities

Pieter Vos*, Paul De Cock, Vera Munde, Heleen Neerinckx, Katja Petry, Wim Van den Noortgate, Bea Maes

*Corresponding author for this work

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    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Although it is shown that attention plays an important role both in the onset and in the regulation of emotions in people without disabilities there is no information about how attention is related to emotions in people with severe or profound intellectual disability (ID). Therefore, in our study, we investigated the role of attention in the onset and regulation of the emotions of persons with severe or profound ID. We presented 27 participants with 4 staff-selected negative and 4 staff-selected positive stimuli. The situations were videotaped and their heart rate and attention was measured. Contrary to the expected higher attention to negative stimuli during the onset of negative emotions, we did not find differences in attention in the fourth to sixth second of stimulus presentation. However, in support of the emotion regulation theory of Gross (2008) we did find less attention to the negative stimuli than to the positive stimuli after these first 6 s of stimuli presentation. As expected from research in people without disabilities, there was also a negative relationship between the heart rate and the probability of being attentive. Our results suggest that people with severe and profound ID use attentional deployment to regulate their emotions and that, as in people without disabilities, a low heart rate is associated with attention. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)902-909
    Number of pages8
    JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-2013


    • Severe or profound intellectual disabilities
    • Emotion regulation
    • Physiology
    • Heart rate
    • Attention
    • Alertness
    • Emotion
    • ADULTS

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