The Role of State and Trait Anxiety in the Processing of Facial Expressions of Emotion

Maddy L Dyer*, Angela S Attwood, Ian S Penton-Voak, Marcus R Munafo

*Corresponding author for this work

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

Abstract

State anxiety appears to influence facial emotion processing (Attwood et al., 2017). We aimed to (a) replicate these findings, and (b) investigate the role of trait anxiety, in an experiment with healthy UK participants (N = 48, 50% male, 50% high trait anxiety). High and low state anxiety were induced via inhalations of 7.5% carbon dioxide enriched air and medical air, respectively. High state anxiety reduced global emotion recognition accuracy (p = .01, ηp2 = .14), but it did not affect interpretation bias towards perceiving anger in ambiguous angry–happy facial morphs (p = .18, ηp2 = .04). We found no clear evidence of a relationship between trait anxiety and global emotion recognition accuracy (p = .60, ηp2 = .01) or interpretation bias towards perceiving anger (p = .83, ηp2 = .001). However, there was greater interpretation bias towards perceiving anger (i.e., away from happiness) during heightened state anxiety, among individuals with high trait anxiety (p = .03, dz = 0.33). State anxiety appears to impair emotion recognition accuracy, and among individuals with high trait anxiety, it appears to increase biases towards perceiving anger (away from happiness). Trait anxiety alone does not appear to be associated with facial emotion processing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Nov 2021

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