Modulations of facial emotionality on facial processing and attentional
biases in individuals with low or high social anxiety: an event-related
Previous studies have demonstrated the influences of facial emotionality
on attentional and perceptual processing when socially anxious
individuals perceive threatening information from facial expressions.
However, it remains unclear whether and how positive expressions may
also affect the attention and perception of socially anxious
individuals. This event-related potential (ERP) study addresses this
issue and examines the temporal dynamics of electrophysiological
responses to negative and positive faces in individuals with high (HSA;
n = 56) or low (LSA; n = 47) social anxiety in a dot-probe task. Four
face pairs (neutral-neutral, angry-neutral, happy-neutral, and
angry-happy) were presented to probe the influences of positive and
negative emotionality. The behavioural results showed a greater negative
bias in reaction times for the LSA group than the HSA group when
angry-happy face pairs were presented. Our ERP results showed an
enhanced N170 effect for the LSA group in comparison to the HSA group
when emotional faces were presented in angry-neutral, happy-neutral, and
angry-happy face pairs. Moreover, greater N2pc effects on emotional
faces were found in the HSA group when angry-neutral and happy-neutral
face pairs were presented. However, this was not true for the LSA group.
No N2pc effect was found when both positive and negative faces were
presented simultaneously. We did not find any significant P1 effect.
Together, our results showed that facial emotionality influenced facial
processing and attention bias in relation to social anxiety. Socially
anxious individuals perceived less emotional facial information and had
attention biases towards both negative and positive faces.