Selective gaze direction and interpretation of facial expressions in social anxiety
Fernández-Martín, Andrés (1)
Del Líbano, Mario
Calvo G, Manuel
Tipo de Ítem:Articulo Revista Indexada
Fear of negative evaluation is the hallmark of social anxiety. We examined the hypothesis that, to facilitate detection of negative evaluators, an anticipatory coping strategy in social anxiety involves selective early gazing at the eyes of other people. Eye fixations were assessed while participants watched video-clips displaying dynamic facial expressions with prototypical (happy eyes and a smile) or ambiguous (a smile but non-happy eyes) smiling faces. High socially anxious (HSA) undergraduates with clinical levels of anxiety on questionnaire measures and low-anxious controls (LSA) judged expressers' un/trustworthiness (Experiment 1) or un/familiarity (Experiment 2) of expressions. Social anxiety was especially associated with reduced trustworthiness evaluation (interpretative bias) of ambiguous-but not of unambiguous-smiling faces. Further, HSA viewers mistrusted faces with novel, unfamiliar expressions more than LSA viewers did. Thus, the interpretative bias for ambiguous expressions could be due to their being unfamiliar. Importantly, HSA viewers selectively looked earlier at the eye region (attentional bias), whereas LSA viewers preferentially looked at the smiling mouth. Presumably, the early attention to the eyes by HSA individuals enhances detection of expressive incongruences, thus leading to untrustworthiness judgments. These biases are functional, in that they would facilitate recognition of untrustworthy expressers (e.g., with fake smiles).
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