Identity and expression memory for happy and angry faces in social anxiety

Arnaud D'Argembeau, Martial Van der Linden, Anne-Marie Etienne, Christine Comblain
Acta Psychologica 2003, 114 (1): 1-15
We examined the influence of social anxiety on memory for both identity and emotional expressions of unfamiliar faces. Participants high and low in social anxiety were presented with happy and angry faces and were later asked to recognise the same faces displaying a neutral expression. They also had to remember what the initial expressions of the faces had been. Remember/know/guess judgements were asked both for identity and expression memory. For participants low in social anxiety, both identity and expression memory were more often associated with "remember" responses when the faces were previously seen with a happy rather than an angry expression. In contrast, the initial expression of the faces did not affect either identity or expression memory for participants high in social anxiety. We interpreted these findings by arguing that most people tend to preferentially elaborate positive rather than negative social stimuli that are important to the self and that this tendency may be reduced in high socially anxious individuals because of the negative meaning they tend to ascribe to positive social information.

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