Poster F28, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Contextual self-relevance and valence modulate face processing differently in those with high versus low subclinical social anxiety
Sarah McCrackin1, Roxane Itier1; 1University of Waterloo
Individuals with high social anxiety (HSA) are more likely than those with low social anxiety (LSA) to interpret negatively-valenced stimuli as self-relevant. As fear of negative evaluation is thought to be one of the key components of HSA, this bias in self-referential processing is thought to contribute to its development and maintenance. Contextual self-relevance and valence have been shown to influence early face perception, so we hypothesised that these effects on face processing vary as function of subclinical social anxiety. The present study used electroencephalography (EEG) to examine these context effects in groups with self-reported HSA (n=28) and LSA (n=31). We also investigated if context would interact with another self-referential cue – whether the faces were looking at or away from the participants. Positive and negative sentences (valence manipulation) referring to the participant or to someone else (self-relevance manipulation) were used as primes for neutral faces with direct or averted gaze (gaze manipulation). Eye-tracking ensured that participants read the sentences and fixated on faces. Mean amplitude analyses of 100ms time-windows post-face presentation (50-750ms) tracked the time-course of effects. Self and other relevant contexts were distinguished at the neural level 100ms earlier in the HSA group than in the LSA group. Furthermore, while valence, gaze and self-relevance interacted to modulate face processing in both groups, the HSA group had a larger effect of self-relevance for negative trials, 350-450ms after face presentation. These results provide support for altered self-referential processing in HSA, and characterize these differences at the neural level.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Person perception