Difficulty disengaging attention from social threat in social anxiety

Julia D. Buckner, Jon K. Maner, Norman B. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Selective attention to threat is believed to maintain social anxiety, yet the nature of attentional processing remains unclear. It has been posited that difficulty disengaging from threat cues may be implicated. The present study tested this hypothesis using an eye tracking paradigm to directly examine eye fixations in a non-clinical sample (N = 46). Eye movements were tracked during presentation of social cues (happy or disgust faces) embedded with non-social cues matched on dimensions of valence, threat, and arousal. Stimuli were presented for 2,000 ms to allow for examination of attention over time. Results suggest that individuals with higher social anxiety may demonstrate relative difficulty disengaging from negative social cues (i.e., disgust faces). Social anxiety was unrelated to eye movements concerning happy faces. Implications for the maintenance and etiology of social anxiety are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Attentional bias
  • Disengagement
  • Eye movements
  • Faces
  • Social anxiety
  • Social phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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