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Sarah Caputo, Amrita Puri; State Anxiety and Perception of Average Emotion in Groups of Faces. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1377. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1377.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Threatening stimuli, such as fearful or angry faces, have been shown to attract visual attention. Previous findings have suggested that this attentional bias is even greater for adults with high levels of anxiety-related traits. Additional research suggests that more socially anxious individuals tend to perceive overall emotions in groups of faces as more negative than less socially anxious individuals. In relation to general anxiety-related traits, there is evidence that more anxious individuals are more accurate in identifying the average emotion for groups that contain fear. However, less is known about how perception of group-emotion may be affected by transient, state-dependent anxiety. The present study investigated the relationship between state anxiety and the perception of the average emotion of crowds of faces. We hypothesized that inducing transient anxiety via anticipation of a public-speaking task would lead to estimating the average emotion of groups of faces as more fearful than it actually is. Participants completed a short-form State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) state subscale to establish a baseline level of state anxiety, and were then randomly assigned to an experimental condition, in which they were given a few minutes to prepare a public speech, or a control condition, in which they prepared a short essay on a chosen topic. Participants then completed a second short-form STAI before completing a computer-based task requiring estimation of the average emotion of groups of faces. Results show that anticipation of presenting a speech led to increased state anxiety, but this transient anxiety did not appear to bias estimates of group emotion towards fear. However, higher state anxiety was related to decreased estimation accuracy for groups of faces with negative (i.e., fearful and sad) but not positive (i.e., happy) average emotions.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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