September 2018
Volume 18, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2018
The Strength of Adaptation to Negative versus Positive Emotional Information Depends on Social Anxiety Status
Author Affiliations
  • Erinda Morina
    Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Sarah Izen
    Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Vivian Ciaramitaro
    Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts Boston
Journal of Vision September 2018, Vol.18, 1343. doi:
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      Erinda Morina, Sarah Izen, Vivian Ciaramitaro; The Strength of Adaptation to Negative versus Positive Emotional Information Depends on Social Anxiety Status. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1343.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Identifying emotional information is important for social engagement, but may be disrupted in clinical conditions such as social anxiety (Yoon & Zinbarg, 2007). More specifically, individuals high (HSA) compared to low (LSA) in social anxiety, demonstrate a negative bias in perceiving faces (Silvia et al., 2006). This hypersensitivity to negative emotions in HSA might be rooted in their fear of negative evaluation and maintained via altered adaptation to negative versus positive emotional content. We hypothesized that HSA individuals would adapt less to angry versus happy emotional faces due to their hypersensitivity to threatening stimuli, with less of a difference in adaptation to angry versus happy faces in LSA individuals. We used face adaptation to quantify the processing of happy and angry faces in HSA and LSA individuals. Repeated exposure to an emotional face can alter the perception of subsequent faces such that post-exposure to negative faces, an emotionally neutral face is perceived as more positive. To quantify adaptation strength for each participant, we fit data with a cumulative normal to calculate the point of subjective equality (PSE), where a face is equally likely to be judged angry or happy, and measured the shift in PSE post-adaptation relative to baseline. LSA (n=36) and HSA (n=40) individuals were randomly assigned to adapt happy or adapt angry. They were adapted for 3 minutes to a series of 30 possible faces of a given emotion (100%) with an 8-sec top-up adaptation after each face morph judged as happy or angry. Eight unique face identities (4F,4M) were morphed along an emotional continuum from angry to neutral to happy (+/-80%, 40%, 20% 10%, and 0). We found a significant difference in adapting positive versus negative emotions in HSA individuals, with stronger adaptation to happy compared to angry faces, and no significant difference in LSA individuals.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018


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