Face processing biases in social anxiety: An electrophysiological study

Jason S. Moser*, Jonathan D. Huppert, Elizabeth Duval, Robert F. Simons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Studies of information processing biases in social anxiety suggest abnormal processing of negative and positive social stimuli. To further investigate these biases, behavioral performance and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were measured, while high- and low-socially anxious individuals performed a modified version of the Erikson flanker task comprised of negative and positive facial expressions. While no group differences emerged on behavioral measures, ERP results revealed the presence of a negative face bias in socially anxious subjects as indexed by the parietally maximal attention- and memory-related P3/late positive potential. Additionally, non-anxious subjects evidenced the presence of a positive face bias as reflected in the centrally maximal early attention- and emotion-modulated P2 and the frontally maximal response monitoring-related correct response negativity. These results demonstrate the sensitivity of different processing stages to different biases in high- versus low-socially anxious individuals that may prove important in advancing models of anxious pathology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)93-103
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Greg Hajcak for his contributions to the design of this study. Portions of this paper were presented at the 45th annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, Lisbon, Portugal, September, 2005. This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) predoctoral fellowship MH077388 (J.S.M.) and early career award K23MH064491 (J.D.H.). Jonathan Huppert is now at the Department of Psychology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.


  • Attention
  • Event-related potentials
  • Information processing biases
  • Response monitoring
  • Social anxiety


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