Processing of task-irrelevant natural scenes in social anxiety.Acta Psychol (Amst). 2011 Sep; 138(1):162-70.AP
In this study, by manipulating perceptual load, we investigated whether socially anxious people process task-irrelevant, non-emotional, natural scenes. When attention was directed to letters and perceptual load was low, task-irrelevant natural scenes were processed, as evidenced by repetition priming effects, in both high and low socially anxious people. In the high perceptual load condition, repetition-priming effects decreased in participants with low social anxiety, but not in those with high social anxiety. The results were the same when attention was directed to pictures of animals: even in the high perceptual load condition, high socially anxious participants processed task-irrelevant natural scenes, as evidenced by flanker effects. However, when attention was directed to pictures of people, task-irrelevant natural scenes were not processed by participants in either anxiety group, regardless of perceptual load. These results suggest that high socially anxious individuals could not inhibit task-irrelevant natural scenes under conditions of high perceptual load, except when attention was focused on people.