Anxiety and sensitivity to eye gaze in emotional faces

Amanda Holmes, Anne Richards, Simon Green
Brain and Cognition 2006, 60 (3): 282-94
This paper reports three studies in which stronger orienting to perceived eye gaze direction was revealed when observers viewed faces showing fearful or angry, compared with happy or neutral, emotional expressions. Gaze-related spatial cueing effects to laterally presented fearful faces and centrally presented angry faces were also modulated by the anxiety level of participants, with high- but not low-state anxious individuals revealing enhanced shifts of attention. In contrast, both high- and low-state anxious individuals demonstrated enhanced orienting to averted gaze when viewing laterally presented angry faces. These results provide novel evidence for the rapid integration of facial expression and gaze direction information, and for the regulation of gaze-cued attention by both the emotion conveyed in the perceived face and the degree of anxiety experienced by the observer.

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