Affective engagement for facial expressions and emotional scenes: The influence of social anxiety

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32608, United States.
Biological psychology (Impact Factor: 3.4). 05/2012; 91(1):103-10. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.05.002
Source: PubMed


Pictures of emotional facial expressions or natural scenes are often used as cues in emotion research. We examined the extent to which these different stimuli engage emotion and attention, and whether the presence of social anxiety symptoms influences responding to facial cues. Sixty participants reporting high or low social anxiety viewed pictures of angry, neutral, and happy faces, as well as violent, neutral, and erotic scenes, while skin conductance and event-related potentials were recorded. Acoustic startle probes were presented throughout picture viewing, and blink magnitude, probe P3 and reaction time to the startle probe also were measured. Results indicated that viewing emotional scenes prompted strong reactions in autonomic, central, and reflex measures, whereas pictures of faces were generally weak elicitors of measurable emotional response. However, higher social anxiety was associated with modest electrodermal changes when viewing angry faces and mild startle potentiation when viewing either angry or smiling faces, compared to neutral. Taken together, pictures of facial expressions do not strongly engage fundamental affective reactions, but these cues appeared to be effective in distinguishing between high and low social anxiety participants, supporting their use in anxiety research.

Download full-text


Available from: Bethany Wangelin, Mar 06, 2015
  • Source
    • "In at least one instance, repetition suppression was larger when viewing fearful compared to neutral faces [Ishai et al., 2004], whereas other studies of face perception [e.g., Rotshtein et al., 2001] have not found differential suppression as a function of emotion. Because pictures of facial expressions are generally less psychophysiologically evocative than emotional scenes [Wangelin et al., 2012], and engage different neural circuits [Sabatinelli et al., 2011], effects of emotion on repetition effects might be better elucidated using more evocative scenes. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Repetitions that are distributed (spaced) across time prompt enhancement of a memory-related event-related potential, compared to when repetitions are massed (contiguous). Here, we used fMRI to investigate neural enhancement and suppression effects during free viewing of natural scenes that were either novel or repeated four times with massed or distributed repetitions. Distrib-uted repetition was uniquely associated with a repetition enhancement effect in a bilateral posterior parietal cluster that included the precuneus and posterior cingulate and which has previously been implicated in episodic memory retrieval. Unique to massed repetition, conversely, was enhancement in a right dorsolateral prefrontal cluster that has been implicated in short-term maintenance. Repetition suppression effects for both types of spacing were widespread in regions activated during novel picture processing. Taken together, the data are consistent with a hypothesis that distributed repetition prompts spontaneous retrieval of prior occurrences, whereas massed repetition prompts short-term maintenance of the episodic representation, due to contiguous presentation. These proc-essing differences may mediate the classic spacing effect in learning and memory. Hum Brain Mapp 00:000–000, 2014. V C 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Human Brain Mapping 12/2014; 36(4). DOI:10.1002/hbm.22708 · 5.97 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Neuroimaging research on cognitive reappraisal noted above has primarily used aversive, negatively valenced scenes (e.g., IAPS images) to probe the neural correlates of reappraisal, and less often employed emotional faces as 'target' stimuli which may have different properties, utility, and advantages. For example, facial expressions can engage attention and cognitive processes without over-activating autonomic and somatic reactions indicative of intense emotional responding [22]. In addition, facial expressions may be more suitable for child and adolescent populations relative to the more vivid, complex, and provocative content (e.g., violent scenes) often depicted in IAPS stimuli to evoke negative affect. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Cognitive reappraisal has been associated with increased activation in prefrontal cortex (PFC) and cingulate regions implicated in cognitive control and affect regulation. To date, neuroimaging studies of reappraisal have primarily used emotionally evocative scenes, and it remains unclear whether the same cognitive strategy applied to emotional facial expressions would involve similar or different neural underpinnings. The present study used fMRI to examine brain activation during cognitive reappraisal of negatively valenced facial expressions relative to passive viewing of negative and neutral facial expressions. Twenty-two healthy adults completed a cognitive reappraisal task comprised of three different conditions (Look-Neutral, Maintain-Negative, Reappraise-Negative). Results indicated that reappraisal was associated with a decrease in negative affect and engagement of PFC brain regions implicated in cognitive control and affect regulation (DLPFC, mPFC, and VLPFC). Furthermore, individual differences in habitual reappraisal use were associated with greater DLPFC and mPFC activation, while suppression use was associated with greater amygdala activation. The present study provides preliminary evidence that facial expressions are effective alternative 'targets' of prefrontal engagement during cognitive reappraisal. These findings are particularly relevant for future research probing the neural bases of emotion regulation in populations for whom aversive scenes may be less appropriate (e.g., children) and illnesses in which aberrant responses to social signals of threat and negative feedback are cardinal phenotypes. Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    Behavioural Brain Research 11/2014; 279. DOI:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.11.034 · 3.03 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "The topographies are illustrated from the back view of a head to show the posterior negativity. for emotional scenes (erotica and violence) and, moreover, that psychophysiological responses are stronger for emotional scenes than faces (Alpers, Adolph, & Pauli, 2011; Wangelin, Bradley, Kastner, & Lang, 2012). However, as we did not study the effects of affective arousal on face processing in the present experiment, more research is needed in order to investigate whether the affect-driven ERP modulations for faces and bodies depend differently on atten- tion. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The early visual event-related 'N170 response' is sensitive to human body configuration and it is enhanced to nude versus clothed bodies. We tested whether the N170 response as well as later EPN and P3/LPP responses to nude bodies reflect the effect of increased arousal elicited by these stimuli, or top-down allocation of object-based attention to the nude bodies. Participants saw pictures of clothed and nude bodies and faces. In each block, participants were asked to direct their attention towards stimuli from a specified target category while ignoring others. Object-based attention did not modulate the N170 amplitudes towards attended stimuli; instead N170 response was larger to nude bodies compared to stimuli from other categories. Top-down attention and affective arousal had additive effects on the EPN and P3/LPP responses reflecting later processing stages. We conclude that nude human bodies have a privileged status in the visual processing system due to the affective arousal they trigger.
    Biological Psychology 09/2014; 103. DOI:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.09.003 · 3.40 Impact Factor
Show more