Socially Anxious Tendencies Affect Autonomic Responses during Eye Gaze Perception


Social anxiety disorder is a common psychiatric disorder. The gaze of others is known to frequently induce social anxiety. We conducted a gaze detection experiment to examine the effects of social anxiety on autonomic response, namely heart rate (HR) response. We used the maximum HR deceleration between 0 s and 3 s after stimulus onset as an indicator of emotional stress. Participants were assigned to a high social anxiety (HSA) or low social anxiety (LSA) group on the basis of cut-off scores indicative of clinical levels of stress as per the Japanese version of the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS-J). Our results showed that HR deceleration was greater for the HSA compared with the LSA group. Moreover, the higher the LSAS-J score was, the greater the increase was in HR deceleration (correlation coefficient rs = 0.52, p < 0.01). Our results suggest that the eye gaze of others can be processed as a threat in individuals with a high tendency towards social anxiety.

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Tsuji, Y. and Shimada, S. (2015) Socially Anxious Tendencies Affect Autonomic Responses during Eye Gaze Perception. Psychology, 6, 1649-1652. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.613160.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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