Angry and fearful face conflict effects in post-traumatic stress disorder

Victoria Ashley, Diane Swick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In the presence of threatening stimuli, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest as hypervigilance for threat and disrupted attentional control. PTSD patients have shown exaggerated interference effects on tasks using trauma-related or threat stimuli. In studies of PTSD, faces with negative expressions are often used as threat stimuli, yet angry and fearful facial expressions may elicit different responses. The modified Eriksen flanker task, or the emotional face flanker, has been used to examine response interference. We compared 23 PTSD patients and 23 military controls on an emotional face flanker task using angry, fearful and neutral expressions. Participants identified the emotion of a central target face flanked by faces with either congruent or incongruent emotions. As expected, both groups showed slower reaction times (RTs) and decreased accuracy on emotional target faces, relative to neutral. Unexpectedly, both groups showed nearly identical interference effects on fearful and neutral target trials. However, post hoc testing suggested that PTSD patients showed faster RTs than controls on congruent angry faces (target and flanker faces both angry) relative to incongruent, although this finding should be interpreted with caution. This possible RT facilitation effect with angry, but not fearful faces, also correlated positively with self-report measures of PTSD symptoms. These results suggest that PTSD patients may be more vigilant for, or primed to respond to, the appearance of angry faces, relative to fearful, but further study is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number136
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume10
Issue numberFEB
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 5 2019

Fingerprint

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
Emotions
Facial Expression
Conflict (Psychology)
Self Report
Anxiety
Wounds and Injuries

Keywords

  • Anger
  • Attention bias
  • Emotion
  • Faces
  • Flanker
  • PTSD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Angry and fearful face conflict effects in post-traumatic stress disorder. / Ashley, Victoria; Swick, Diane.

In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 10, No. FEB, 136, 05.02.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{b434fd12659349f28dc0e4c4fe6be5c4,
title = "Angry and fearful face conflict effects in post-traumatic stress disorder",
abstract = "In the presence of threatening stimuli, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest as hypervigilance for threat and disrupted attentional control. PTSD patients have shown exaggerated interference effects on tasks using trauma-related or threat stimuli. In studies of PTSD, faces with negative expressions are often used as threat stimuli, yet angry and fearful facial expressions may elicit different responses. The modified Eriksen flanker task, or the emotional face flanker, has been used to examine response interference. We compared 23 PTSD patients and 23 military controls on an emotional face flanker task using angry, fearful and neutral expressions. Participants identified the emotion of a central target face flanked by faces with either congruent or incongruent emotions. As expected, both groups showed slower reaction times (RTs) and decreased accuracy on emotional target faces, relative to neutral. Unexpectedly, both groups showed nearly identical interference effects on fearful and neutral target trials. However, post hoc testing suggested that PTSD patients showed faster RTs than controls on congruent angry faces (target and flanker faces both angry) relative to incongruent, although this finding should be interpreted with caution. This possible RT facilitation effect with angry, but not fearful faces, also correlated positively with self-report measures of PTSD symptoms. These results suggest that PTSD patients may be more vigilant for, or primed to respond to, the appearance of angry faces, relative to fearful, but further study is needed.",
keywords = "Anger, Attention bias, Emotion, Faces, Flanker, PTSD",
author = "Victoria Ashley and Diane Swick",
year = "2019",
month = "2",
day = "5",
doi = "10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00136",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "10",
journal = "Frontiers in Psychology",
issn = "1664-1078",
publisher = "Frontiers Research Foundation",
number = "FEB",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Angry and fearful face conflict effects in post-traumatic stress disorder

AU - Ashley, Victoria

AU - Swick, Diane

PY - 2019/2/5

Y1 - 2019/2/5

N2 - In the presence of threatening stimuli, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest as hypervigilance for threat and disrupted attentional control. PTSD patients have shown exaggerated interference effects on tasks using trauma-related or threat stimuli. In studies of PTSD, faces with negative expressions are often used as threat stimuli, yet angry and fearful facial expressions may elicit different responses. The modified Eriksen flanker task, or the emotional face flanker, has been used to examine response interference. We compared 23 PTSD patients and 23 military controls on an emotional face flanker task using angry, fearful and neutral expressions. Participants identified the emotion of a central target face flanked by faces with either congruent or incongruent emotions. As expected, both groups showed slower reaction times (RTs) and decreased accuracy on emotional target faces, relative to neutral. Unexpectedly, both groups showed nearly identical interference effects on fearful and neutral target trials. However, post hoc testing suggested that PTSD patients showed faster RTs than controls on congruent angry faces (target and flanker faces both angry) relative to incongruent, although this finding should be interpreted with caution. This possible RT facilitation effect with angry, but not fearful faces, also correlated positively with self-report measures of PTSD symptoms. These results suggest that PTSD patients may be more vigilant for, or primed to respond to, the appearance of angry faces, relative to fearful, but further study is needed.

AB - In the presence of threatening stimuli, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can manifest as hypervigilance for threat and disrupted attentional control. PTSD patients have shown exaggerated interference effects on tasks using trauma-related or threat stimuli. In studies of PTSD, faces with negative expressions are often used as threat stimuli, yet angry and fearful facial expressions may elicit different responses. The modified Eriksen flanker task, or the emotional face flanker, has been used to examine response interference. We compared 23 PTSD patients and 23 military controls on an emotional face flanker task using angry, fearful and neutral expressions. Participants identified the emotion of a central target face flanked by faces with either congruent or incongruent emotions. As expected, both groups showed slower reaction times (RTs) and decreased accuracy on emotional target faces, relative to neutral. Unexpectedly, both groups showed nearly identical interference effects on fearful and neutral target trials. However, post hoc testing suggested that PTSD patients showed faster RTs than controls on congruent angry faces (target and flanker faces both angry) relative to incongruent, although this finding should be interpreted with caution. This possible RT facilitation effect with angry, but not fearful faces, also correlated positively with self-report measures of PTSD symptoms. These results suggest that PTSD patients may be more vigilant for, or primed to respond to, the appearance of angry faces, relative to fearful, but further study is needed.

KW - Anger

KW - Attention bias

KW - Emotion

KW - Faces

KW - Flanker

KW - PTSD

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85061040242&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85061040242&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00136

DO - 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00136

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85061040242

VL - 10

JO - Frontiers in Psychology

JF - Frontiers in Psychology

SN - 1664-1078

IS - FEB

M1 - 136

ER -