Characterizing the time course of automatic action tendencies to affective facial expressions and its dysregulation in social anxiety disorder

Travis C. Evans, Charles T. Taylor, Jennifer C. Britton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Affective facial expressions elicit automatic approach or avoidance action tendencies, which are dysregulated in Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). However, research has not dissociated the initiation and execution phases of automatic action tendencies, which may be distinctly modulated by affective faces and SAD. In Study 1, fifty adults completed a modified Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT) that characterized the time course of automatic approach or avoidance actions elicited by affective faces. In the initiation phase, happy faces elicited greater automatic approach tendencies compared to angry faces, an effect that linearly weakened across the execution phase. In Study 2, 44 adults with a principal diagnosis of SAD and 22 healthy comparison (HC) adults completed a similar AAT. Compared to the HC group, the SAD group exhibited an inconsistent time course of automatic action tendencies to neutral faces. Specifically, SAD was characterized by relatively weak initiation of automatic approach tendencies, but relatively stronger execution of automatic approach tendencies. In contrast, the HC group exhibited relatively similar initiation and execution of automatic approach tendencies to neutral faces. Together, these results demonstrate that the initiation and execution of automatic action tendencies are differentially modulated by affective faces and SAD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102363
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Volume78
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Action tendencies
  • Approach
  • Automatic
  • Avoidance
  • Social anxiety
  • Time course

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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