State anxiety and emotional face recognition in healthy volunteers

Angela S. Attwood*, Kayleigh E. Easey, Michael N. Dalili, Andrew L. Skinner, Andy Woods, Lana Crick, Elizabeth Ilett, Ian S. Penton-Voak, Marcus R. Munafò

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
505 Downloads (Pure)


High trait anxiety has been associated with detriments in emotional face processing. By contrast, relatively little is known about the effects of state anxiety on emotional face processing. We investigated the effects of state anxiety on recognition of emotional expressions (anger, sadness, surprise, disgust, fear and happiness) experimentally, using the 7.5% carbon dioxide (CO2) model to induce state anxiety, and in a large observational study. The experimental studies indicated reduced global (rather than emotion-specific) emotion recognition accuracy and increased interpretation bias (a tendency to perceive anger over happiness) when state anxiety was heightened. The observational study confirmed that higher state anxiety is associated with poorer emotion recognition, and indicated that negative effects of trait anxiety are negated when controlling for state anxiety, suggesting a mediating effect of state anxiety. These findings may have implications for anxiety disorders, which are characterized by increased frequency, intensity or duration of state anxious episodes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160855
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2017

Structured keywords

  • CRICBristol
  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition
  • Tactile Action Perception
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


  • 7.5% carbon dioxide
  • Anxiety
  • Emotion recognition
  • Emotional face processing
  • Interpretation bias


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