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Pers Individ Dif. 2012 Feb;52(3):444-448.

High Hostility Among Smokers Predicts Slower Recognition of Positive Facial Emotion.

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Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI.


High levels of trait hostility are associated with wide-ranging interpersonal deficits and heightened physiological response to social stressors. These deficits may be attributable in part to individual differences in the perception of social cues. The present study evaluated the ability to recognize facial emotion among 48 high hostile (HH) and 48 low hostile (LH) smokers and whether experimentally-manipulated acute nicotine deprivation moderated relations between hostility and facial emotion recognition. A computer program presented series of pictures of faces that morphed from a neutral emotion into increasing intensities of happiness, sadness, fear, or anger, and participants were asked to identify the emotion displayed as quickly as possible. Results indicated that HH smokers, relative to LH smokers, required a significantly greater intensity of emotion expression to recognize happiness. No differences were found for other emotions across HH and LH individuals, nor did nicotine deprivation moderate relations between hostility and emotion recognition. This is the first study to show that HH individuals are slower to recognize happy facial expressions and that this occurs regardless of recent tobacco abstinence. Difficulty recognizing happiness in others may impact the degree to which HH individuals are able to identify social approach signals and to receive social reinforcement.

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