Garner, M., Baldwin, D.S., Bradley, B.P. and Mogg, K.
Impaired identification of fearful faces in Generalised Social Phobia
Journal of Affective Disorders, 115, (3), . (doi:10.1016/j.jad.2008.10.020).
Microsoft Word Garner_Baldwin_Bradley_Mogg_2009_POST_PRINT.doc
- Accepted Manuscript
Background. Cognitive models and interventions for anxiety assume that socially anxious individuals interpret ambiguous social information in a threatening manner. However, experimental evidence for this hypothesised cognitive bias is mixed. The present study is novel in using a signal detection approach to clarify whether Generalised Social Phobia (GSP) is associated with biased identification of emotionally ambiguous facial expressions.
Methods. 16 patients with GSP and 17 non-anxious volunteers classified ambiguous emotional facial expressions, with each face reflecting a blend of two emotions: angry-happy, fearful-happy and fearful-angry. Discrimination accuracy and response criterion were assessed.
Results. Patients with GSP showed significantly poorer discrimination of ambiguous emotional facial expressions that contained an element of fear (i.e., fearful-happy and fearful-angry expressions), compared to non-anxious controls. The groups did not significantly differ in discrimination of faces which lacked fear content (i.e., angry-happy blend), or on measures of response criterion.
Limitations. Small sample size, coexisting depressive symptoms.
Conclusions. Findings indicate a selective impairment in fear identification in GSP. Results are discussed with reference to neurocognitive models of anxiety, and research on serotonergic modulation of emotional face processing.
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