Androstadienone, a putative chemosignal of dominance, increases gaze avoidance among men with high social anxiety.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 04; 102:9-15.P
Socially anxious individuals show increased sensitivity toward social threat signals, including cues of dominance. This sensitivity may account for the hypervigilance and gaze avoidance commonly reported in individuals with social anxiety. This study examines visual scanning behavior in response to androstadienone (androsta-4,16,-dien-3-one), a putative chemosignal of dominance. We tested whether exposure to androstadienone would increase hypervigilance and gaze avoidance among individuals with high social anxiety. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject design, 26 participants with high social anxiety and 26 with low social anxiety were exposed to androstadienone and a control solution on two separate days. On each day, an eye-tracker recorded their spontaneous scanning behavior while they viewed facial images of men depicting dominant and neutral poses. The results indicate that among participants with high social anxiety, androstadienone increased gaze avoidance by reducing the percentage of fixations made to the eye-region and the total amount of time spent gazing at the eye-region of the faces. Participants with low social anxiety did not show this effect. These findings indicate that androstadienone serves as a threatening chemosignal of dominance, further supporting the link between hypersensitivity toward social threat cues and the perpetuation of social anxiety.