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Anxious Adults Quick to Judgment

Researchers have found highly anxious adults can perceive changes in facial impressions faster than adults who are not anxious. Unfortunately, anxious adults often develop conclusions too rapidly, with judgment errors perpetuating a cycle of conflict and misunderstanding in their relationships.

“Facial cues play an important role in how individuals perceive information that is relevant to attachment concerns,” said study co-author R. Chris Fraley, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Our findings suggest that highly anxious individuals – people who are very insecure about their relationships – are more vigilant in monitoring the facial cues of others, but also make more mistakes in interpreting the emotional states behind facial expressions.”

To investigate the relationship between attachment style and perception of facial cues, Fraley and his collaborators asked participants to view movies of faces in which the expression gradually changed from emotional to neutral, or vice versa. The participants were instructed to stop the movie at the point at which the expression had changed. The researchers report their findings in the August issue of the Journal of Personality.

“We found that highly anxious people tended to judge the change in facial expressions faster than less-anxious people,” Fraley said. “Importantly, highly anxious individuals also tended to make more perceptual errors than less-anxious individuals.”

Highly anxious adults were more sensitive and much more likely to jump to emotional conclusions, thus underpinning their ability to perceive emotions accurately, the researchers found. Indeed, when highly anxious adults were forced to take the same amount of time as everyone else, they were able to judge emotional states more accurately than less-anxious adults.

“This ‘hair trigger’ style of perceptual sensitivity may be one reason why highly anxious people experience greater conflict in their relationships,” Fraley said. “The irony is that they have the ability to make their judgments more accurately than less-anxious people, but, because they are so quick to make judgments about others’ emotions, they tend to mistakenly infer other people’s emotional states and intentions.”

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Anxious Adults Quick to Judgment

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Anxious Adults Quick to Judgment. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2006/07/18/anxious-adults-quick-to-judgement/104.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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