The fear of being scrutinised is a core feature of social anxiety disorder and socially anxious individuals overestimate being 'looked at'. A recent development in the vision sciences is a reliable psychophysical index of the range of eye gaze angles judged as being directed at oneself (Cone of Direct Gaze: CoDG). We tested the CoDG as a measure of "being looked at" in social anxiety. Participants were stratified into high/low social anxiety groups and asked to judge whether they were being 'looked at' by computerised male faces varying in eye gaze deviation and facial emotion. High socially anxious males had a wider CoDG than low socially anxious males; high and low socially anxious females did not differ. Fearful faces elicited narrower cones than neutral or angry faces; however, the effect size was small and not evident for the high socially anxious males. Measures of subjective reactions to the study, and to being looked at in general, indicated that the results may be in part due to males suffering more discomfort when being looked at. The results show that measures derived from psychophysics, in this case, the CoDG, have potential as clinical and research tools for measuring anxiety about being scrutinised.
- Gaze perception
- Social anxiety