What's in a ( neutral) face? Personality disorders, attachment styles, and the appraisal of ambiguous social cues

The University of Surrey Roehampton, Whitelands College, West Hill, London, UK.
Journal of Personality Disorders (Impact Factor: 2.31). 08/2004; 18(4):320-336. DOI: 10.1521/pedi.18.4.320.40344

ABSTRACT Attachment theory suggests that borderline, avoidant, and schizoid personality disorders are differentially associated with anxious and avoidant attachment styles. The variations of insecure attachment in these disorders, in turn, might influence how others are perceived or appraised. To test these ideas, 176 college students completed questionnaires measuring attachment styles and personality disorder features, and each rated 10 emotionally neutral faces on 18 bipolar appraisal dimensions. As expected, borderline personality was associated with anxious attachment, avoidant personality was associated with anxious and avoidant attachment, and schizoid personality was weakly associated only with avoidant attachment. Furthermore, path analyses showed that borderline and avoidant personality features were associated with anxious attachment, which in turn related to negative face appraisals (e.g., tendencies to rate faces as less friendly and more rejecting). Discussion highlights the potential of simultaneously studying biases in social information processing and attachment disturbances among individuals with personality disorders.

1 Bookmark
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: If Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is characterized by an underlying emotional sensitivity, individuals with this disorder would be expected to demonstrate accurate identification of emotional expressions at earlier stages of expression (i.e., lower thresholds of facial expressivity across all emotional valences). Twenty-one outpatient youth (aged 15-24 years) meeting 3 or more DSM-IV BPD criteria and 20 community-derived participants (aged 15-24 years) with no history of psychiatric problems were tested on a measure of emotional sensitivity, the Face Morph Task. In this test faces morph from neutral to each of the six basic emotional expressions. The BPD group showed no evidence of heightened sensitivity to emotional facial expressions compared to the community control group (all P>0.05 and effect sizes ranging from 0 to 0.6). They require comparable levels of emotional expressivity in order to correctly identify emotions. Therefore, emotional sensitivity might not be apparent early in the course of BPD. Rather, it might develop later in the course of the disorder or be present only in severe BPD.
    Psychiatry Research 01/2011; 187(1-2):234-40. · 2.68 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: An experimental study investigated self-esteem and other-esteem responses to either fully supportive or less supportive interpersonal feedback in college students with avoidant and borderline personality disorder features (APD and BPD respectively). Disturbances in self-esteem and in evaluations of others are central to definitions of both APD and BPD, but the extent to which such interpersonal appraisals are responsive to contextual features, such as evaluative feedback from others, is not yet clear. In theory, we would expect that individuals with pronounced PD features would show more inflexible and more negative self-evaluations and others- evaluations than those without PD features. In this study with 169 undergraduates, APD but not BPD features were associated with other-contingent state self-esteem and other-esteem. A significant interaction indicated that highly avoidant respondents felt particularly negatively about themselves and their close others in situations that conveyed subtle criticism but not in situations signalling unequivocal support. This suggests that their self-esteem and other-esteem, rather than being rigidly negative, are instead highly contingent upon interpersonal feedback. Such context contingency has implications for the trait-like description of diagnostic characteristics within current taxonomies and is in line with contemporary dynamic models of personality structure and process. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Personality and Mental Health 11/2013; 7(4):307-19. · 1.10 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: It has been argued that a heightened emotional sensitivity interferes with the cognitive processing of facial emotion recognition and may explain the intensified emotional reactions to external emotional stimuli of adults with personality pathology, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD). This study examines if and how deviations in facial emotion recognition also occur in adolescents with personality pathology. Forty-two adolescents with personality pathology, 111 healthy adolescents and 28 psychiatric adolescents without personality pathology completed the Emotion Recognition Task, measuring their accuracy and sensitivity in recognizing positive and negative emotion expressions presented in several, morphed, expression intensities. Adolescents with personality pathology showed an enhanced recognition accuracy of facial emotion expressions compared to healthy adolescents and clients with various Axis-I psychiatric diagnoses. They were also more sensitive to less intensive expressions of emotions than clients with various Axis-I psychiatric diagnoses, but not more than healthy adolescents. As has been shown in research on adults with BPD, adolescents with personality pathology show enhanced facial emotion recognition.
    European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 10/2013; · 3.70 Impact Factor


1 Download
Available from
Jul 7, 2014