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Biol Psychol. 2007 Oct;76(3):163-9. Epub 2007 Jul 26.

Anxiety and orienting of gaze to angry and fearful faces.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, UK.


Neuroscience research indicates that individual differences in anxiety may be attributable to a neural system for threat-processing, involving the amygdala, which modulates attentional vigilance, and which is more sensitive to fearful than angry faces. Complementary cognitive studies indicate that high-anxious individuals show enhanced visuospatial orienting towards angry faces, but it is unclear whether fearful faces elicit a similar attentional bias. This study compared biases in initial orienting of gaze to fearful and angry faces, which varied in emotional intensity, in high- and low-anxious individuals. Gaze was monitored whilst participants viewed a series of face-pairs. Results showed that fearful and angry faces elicited similar attentional biases. High-anxious individuals were more likely to direct gaze at intense negative facial expressions, than low-anxious individuals, whereas the groups did not differ in orienting to mild negative expressions. Implications of the findings for research into the neural and cognitive bases of emotion processing are discussed.

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