Difficulty Disengaging Attention from Social Threat in Social Anxiety
Selective attention to threat is believed to maintain social anxiety, yet the nature of attentional processing remains unclear. It has been posited that difficulty disengaging from threat cues may be implicated. The present study tested this hypothesis using an eye tracking paradigm to directly examine eye fixations in a non-clinical sample (N = 46). Eye movements were tracked during presentation of social cues (happy or disgust faces) embedded with non-social cues matched on dimensions of valence, threat, and arousal. Stimuli were presented for 2,000 ms to allow for examination of attention over time. Results suggest that individuals with higher social anxiety may demonstrate relative difficulty disengaging from negative social cues (i.e., disgust faces). Social anxiety was unrelated to eye movements concerning happy faces. Implications for the maintenance and etiology of social anxiety are discussed.
KeywordsAttentional bias Disengagement Eye movements Faces Social anxiety Social phobia
This research was supported in part by NIH awards F31 DA021457 (Buckner) and RO1 MH064734 (Maner and Schmidt).
- Amir, N., Klumpp, H., Elias, J., Bedwell, J. S., Yanasak, N., & Miller, L. S. (2005). Increased activation of the anterior cingulate cortex during processing of disgust faces in individuals with social phobia. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 975–981. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.01.044.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. (1978). Pictures of facial affect. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
- Heimberg, R. G., Mueller, G. P., Holt, C. S., Hope, D. A., & Liebowitz, D. A. (1992). Assessment of anxiety in social interaction and being observed by others: The social interaction anxiety scale and the social phobia scale. Behavior Therapy, 23, 53–73. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7894(05)80308-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593–602. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (1995). The international affective picture system (IAPS): Technical manual and affective ratings. Gainesville, FL: Center for Research in Psychophysiology, University of Florida.Google Scholar
- Posner, M. I., & Cohen, Y. A. (1984). Components of visual orienting. In H. Bouma & D. G. Bouwhuis (Eds.), Attention and performance X (pp. 531–556). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar