Extraction of mean emotional tone from face arrays in social anxiety disorder

Zohar Z. Bronfman, Noam Brezis, Amit Lazarov*, Marius Usher, Yair Bar-Haim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by intense fear when facing a crowd. Processing biases of crowd-related information have been suggested as contributing to the etiology and maintenance of the disorder. Here we tested whether patients with SAD display aberrant patterns of extracting the mean emotional tone from sets of faces. Methods: Twenty-one participants with SAD and 24 unanxious control participants had to determine the average emotion expression of sets of six different morphed faces ranging from happy to angry. In 20% of trials the six faces were randomly sampled from the entire happy–angry range. The remaining 80% of trials, considered the critical trials, had an emotional outlier: five faces were sampled from one-half of the emotional range, whereas the sixth face was sampled from the opposite emotional range. Results: Participants with SAD were less accurate than controls in extracting the mean emotional tone from sets of faces. Unanxious participants underweighted negative outliers and overweighed positive outliers when extracting the mean, whereas participants with SAD exhibited no such biases. Conclusions: Results suggest a possible mechanism associated with the anxiety experienced by socially anxious individuals when facing a crowd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-255
Number of pages8
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Volume35
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Keywords

  • average extraction
  • cognitive bias
  • cognitive processing
  • crowd evaluation
  • facial expression
  • social anxiety disorder

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