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Anticipatory processing predicts ERP related perceptual processing of threatening faces

Anticipatory processing predicts ERP related perceptual processing of threatening faces

Name:
Jacob Kraft

Department:
Psychology

Abstract:
Research on anticipatory processing (AP; i.e., the anticipation, worry or rumination that happens before a social situation) suggests that individuals with social anxiety tend to engage in AP for social situations much more often than non-anxious controls (Vassilopoulos, 2004). Clark and Well’s (1995) cognitive theory suggests that AP will lead to increased anxiety, which in turn leads to more resources being allocated to anxious thoughts, rumination, and worry. Theory then suggests that higher levels of trait AP will lead to heightened processing of threatening stimuli, due to less resources being allocated towards controlling attention. Using the late positive potential (LPP) ERP component we were able to measure attentional resource allocation in a trial-and-error learning task. Results suggests that AP scores are predictive of facial stimulus processing (ie. the LPP amplitude). Specifically, our results found that individuals with higher levels of AP spent more resources processing the faces that were more negatively valenced. These findings support cognitive theories of social anxiety and helps explicate the relationship between attentional resource allocation and social anxiety, which influences the maintenance of the disorder.