Are They a Threat?: The Interplay of Gaze Direction, Perceived Emotion, and Trait Anxiety in Attention Across Time

Open Access
Deitzer, Jessica Rae
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Reginald Adams Jr., Thesis Supervisor
  • Rick R Jacobs, Honors Advisor
  • social vision
  • social psychology
  • eye gaze
  • attention
  • emotion
  • shared signal hypothesis
  • approach
  • avoidance
  • anxiety
The shared signal hypothesis, postulated by Adams & Kleck (2003, 2005), proposes that the congruence of approach/avoidance signals conveyed via eye gaze and facial expression moderates the processing of faces. This study builds on past research by hypothesizing that congruent cues (i.e. direct gaze anger/averted gaze fear) will be prioritized early in attention (i.e. 300 milliseconds); however, later attention (i.e., 1000ms) should be biased toward incongruent cues (i.e. averted gaze anger/direct gaze fear). Moreover, we predicted that levels of trait anxiety may moderate these attentional biases. We found for fear, when covarying levels of trait anxiety, there were indeed more attentional biases toward the congruent pairing (i.e., averted fear) at 300ms with a bias toward the incongruent pairing (i.e., direct fear) at 1000ms. There was no such effect for anger. The results are discussed in relation to the shared signal hypothesis and functional differences in the signal conveyed by anger and fear.