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The influence of self-focus and threatening faces on attentional bias in social anxiety

The influence of self-focus and threatening faces on attentional bias in social anxiety

Name:
Emma Unruh-Dawes

Department:
Psychology

Abstract:
The influence of self-focus and threatening faces on attentional bias in social anxiety Emma Unruh-Dawes, Evan J. White, M.S., Jake D. Kraft, B.A., Kristen E. Frosio, B.A., Danielle L. Taylor, B.A., Adam C. Mills Ph.D., Matt R. Judah Ph.D., DeMond M. Grant, Ph.D.

Research suggests that attentional biases are an integral factor in maintaining the symptoms associated with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). These biases could include how much the individual focuses on themselves (i.e., self-focus), how their social anxiety appears to others, and also attention to external stimuli or cues to possible rejection However, there is still more information needed to provide greater empirical support for the effect that self-focus has on attention, especially among socially anxious populations.

The goal of the current study was to examine brain activity to determine whether socially anxious individuals display biases towards disgusted facial expressions, and if self-focus cues contribute to that bias. It is hypothesized that social anxiety result in greater selective attention for disgusted faces. Self-focus also is hypothesized to impair preparation for upcoming stimuli and increase selective attention to disgusted faces. Forty-nine undergraduate students were grouped based on their level of social anxiety then completed computer based tasks while their brain activity was being measure via EEG recording equipment. Results of this study demonstrated that disgusted facial expressions result in greater selective attention compared to neutral expressions. This suggests that selective attention is greater to disgusted faces and problematic attention. Additionally, self-focus impaired the participants’ attentional preparation for upcoming stimuli. Further data are needed to examine whether socially anxious individuals interpret neutral faces as more threatening than disgusted faces.