CA Conway, BC Jones, LM DeBruine, AC Little, J Hay, LLM Welling, DI Perrett & DR Feinberg (2008). Integrating physical and social cues when forming face preferences: Differences among low and high anxiety individuals. Social Neuroscience, 3(1): 89-95. doi: 10.1080/17470910701676145

This study investigated individual differences in the integration of social (i.e., direction of social interest) and physical (i.e., apparent health) cues in a face preference test. While low-anxiety individuals demonstrated preferences for social engagement from healthy-looking faces, but not from unhealthy-looking faces, high-anxiety individuals preferred social engagement from both healthy and unhealthy individuals. Importantly, anxious individuals were not simply less discriminating in their face preferences generally: anxiety levels were positively related to the strength of overall preferences for positive social interest. Collectively, our findings show that perceptions of gaze and expression can be modulated by aspects of facial appearance and that systematic variation among individuals exists in the extent to which this modulation occurs. Furthermore, since previous studies have demonstrated hypersensitive amygdala responses among anxious individuals when viewing faces, our findings suggest that the amygdala may play an important role in determining how different facial cues are integrated in person perception.

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