Social anxiety is associated with tendencies to perceive other people’s facial expressions in a negative manner. Two independent factors, sensitivity to and response criteria for emotional faces, may contribute to this bias. By applying signal detection theory and employing morphed facial stimuli with equated levels of intensity, we examined sensitivity to and response criteria for faces that were subtly angry or happy with a sample of 88 college students. Higher levels of social anxiety were associated with both greater sensitivity to mild anger and tendencies to label facial expressions as angry. In contrast, levels of social anxiety were not significantly associated with either sensitivity to or response criteria for mildly happy faces. These results indicate that the processing of negative facial expressions in social anxiety is affected by both greater sensitivity to the detection of threats and a bias for judging ambiguous social cues as threatening.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Clinical Psychology