Professional article

Stress increases the feeling of being looked at

Published inPsychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 37, no. 2, p. 292-298
Publication date2012

Eye gaze direction and facial expression are important social cues. Recent studies have shown that emotional expression affects interpretation of gaze direction in such a way that positive emotions are more favorably interpreted as making eye contact than negative or neutral expressions. Here we examine whether stress affects this positivity bias in gaze perception. Stress was induced in 25 healthy young adults by means of the cold pressure stress test (CPS), 24 participants serving as controls. Stimuli were created from three-dimensional face models of 8 actors expressing happy, fearful, angry and neutral emotions. From each of these 3D models we extracted 9 different views (0°, 2°, 4°, 6° and 8° to the left and to the right). This resulted in 288 stimuli, which were randomly presented for 700 ms. Using a forced choice paradigm participants judged whether or not each face was looking at them. The results show that the CPS group falsely interpreted faces with averted gaze direction as making eye contact more often than did controls, independent of the expressed emotion. These results suggest that a stress-induced raise in cortisol level increases the sense of being looked at.

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Cues
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone/analysis/metabolism
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Visual
  • Saliva/chemistry
  • Social Perception
  • Stress
  • Psychological/psychology
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
RIMMELE, Ulrike, LOBMAIER, Janek S. Stress increases the feeling of being looked at. In: Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2012, vol. 37, n° 2, p. 292–298. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.06.013
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0306-4530

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