Selective attention to emotional prosody in social anxiety: a dichotic listening study

Cognition and Emotion 31 (8):1749-1756 (2017)
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Abstract

The majority of evidence on social anxiety -linked attentional biases to threat comes from research using facial expressions. Emotions are, however, communicated through other channels, such as voice. Despite its importance in the interpretation of social cues, emotional prosody processing in SA has been barely explored. This study investigated whether SA is associated with enhanced processing of task-irrelevant angry prosody. Fifty-three participants with high and low SA performed a dichotic listening task in which pairs of male/female voices were presented, one to each ear, with either the same or different prosody. Participants were instructed to focus on either the left or right ear and to identify the speaker’s gender in the attended side. Our main results show that, once attended, task-irrelevant angry prosody elicits greater interference than does neutral prosody. Surprisingly, high socially anxious participants were less prone to distraction from attended-angry prosody than were low socially anxious individuals. These findings emphasise the importance of examining SA-related biases across modalities.

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