Does psychosocial adversity improve emotion detection?
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SW OZ BSI ON
SW OZ BSI SCP
Behavioural and educational sciences
Key wordsFace-in-the-crowd-task; detection of anger; 2016
We used a Face-in-the-Crowd task to examine whether psychosocial adversity improves detection of anger in complex scenes; and whether such enhanced cognition occurs for a different negative emotion, sadness, as well. We conducted a well-powered, preregistered study in 100 college students and 100 individuals from a socioeconomically diverse community sample. In contrast to our predictions, (a) the community sample was less accurate at detecting both angry and sad faces than students; (b) only students discriminated anger more accurately than sadness, and (c) at the individual level, having experienced more violence did not positively predict anger detection accuracy. Participants in general had a lower bar for perceiving emotion in response to anger than sadness. Students had a higher bar than the community sample for perceiving emotion in response to both anger and sadness. Overall, these findings contradict our hypotheses about enhanced danger detection resulting from developmental exposures to threat, but rather suggests that our community sample was more prone to over-perceiving emotions—consistent with previous studies showing bias in threat-exposed populations. Future research is needed to tease apart the conditions in which individuals who developed or current live in dangerous conditions show enhanced accuracy or bias in their perception of emotions.