Patients with generalized social phobia direct their attention away from faces.
Chen YP., Ehlers A., Clark DM., Mansell W.
The experiment tested whether patients with social phobia direct their attention to or away from faces with a range of emotional expressions. A modified dot probe paradigm (J. Abnorm. Psychol. 95 (1986) 15) measured whether participants attended more to faces or to household objects. Twenty patients with social phobia were faster in identifying the probe when it occurred in the location of the household objects, regardless of whether the facial expressions were positive, neutral, or negative. In contrast, controls did not exhibit an attentional preference. The results are in line with recent theories of social phobia that emphasize the role of reduced processing of external social cues in maintaining social anxiety.