Early information processing biases in social anxiety
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Considerable controversy persists regarding the nature of threat-related attention biases in social anxiety. Previous studies have not considered how variations in the temporal and energetic dimensions of affective stimulus delivery interact with anxiety-related individual differences to predict biased attention. We administered a visual dot-probe task, using faces that varied in affective intensity (mild, moderate, strong) and presentation rate (100, 500, 1,250 ms) to a selected sample. The high, compared to the low, socially anxious group showed vigilance towards angry faces and emotionally ambiguous faces more generally during rapid (100 ms) presentations. By 1,250 ms, there was only a non-specific motor slowing associated with angry faces in the high socially anxious group. Findings suggest the importance of considering both chronometric and energetic dimensions of affective stimuli when examining anxiety-related attention biases. Future studies should consider using designs that more closely replicate aspects of real-world interaction to study processing biases in socially anxious populations.
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