Angry-happy interpretations of ambiguous faces in social anxiety disorder

Keren Maoz, Sharon Eldar, Joel Stoddard, Daniel S. Pine, Ellen Leibenluft, Yair Bar-Haim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a tendency to interpret ambiguous social cues as negative. Here we tested whether interpretation of ambiguous faces differs between participants with SAD and non-anxious controls. Twenty-seven individuals with SAD and 21 non-anxious control participants completed an emotion recognition task in which they judged ambiguous morphed faces as happy or angry. Participants with SAD judged a higher proportion of the faces as angry compared to non-anxious participants, and were slower to judge faces as angry compared to happy, while no such reaction time bias manifested in the control group. Finally, happy judgments were slower in the SAD group compared to the control group, while angry judgments were faster in the SAD group compared to the control group. These findings provide evidence for a negative bias in resolving emotional ambiguity in facial expressions among individuals with SAD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-127
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Jul 30 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Ambiguous facial expressions
  • Anger
  • Emotion
  • Interpretation bias
  • Social phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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