Fearful Face Detection Sensitivity in Healthy Adults Correlates With Anxiety-Related Traits

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid


Threatening faces have a privileged status in the brain, which can be reflected in a processing advantage. However, this effect varies among individuals, even healthy adults. For example, one recent study showed that fearful face detection sensitivity correlated with trait anxiety in healthy adults (S. Japee, L. Crocker, F. Carver, L. Pessoa, & L. G. Ungerleider, 2009. Individual differences in valence modulation of face-selective M170 response. Emotion, 9, 59–69). Here, we expanded on those findings by investigating whether intersubject variability in fearful face detection is also associated with state anxiety, as well as more broadly with other traits related to anxiety. To measure fearful face detection sensitivity, we used a masked face paradigm where the target face was presented for only 33 ms and was immediately followed by a neutral face mask. Subjects then rated their confidence in detecting either fear or no fear in the target face. Fearful face detection sensitivity was calculated for each subject using signal detection theory. Replicating previous results, we found a significant positive correlation between trait anxiety and fearful face detection sensitivity. However, this behavioral advantage did not correlate with state anxiety. We also found that fearful face detection sensitivity correlated with other personality measures, including neuroticism and harm avoidance. Our data suggest that fearful face detection sensitivity varies parametrically across the healthy population, is associated broadly with personality traits related to anxiety, but remains largely unaffected by situational fluctuations in anxiety. These results underscore the important contribution of anxiety-related personality traits to threat processing in healthy adults.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles