Visual scanpaths and facial affect recognition in delusion-prone individuals: Increased sensitivity to threat?

Melissa J. Green, Leanne M. Williams, Dean Davidson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)


    Introduction: Using visual scanpaths as a measure of directed attention, we investigated whether delusion-prone individuals would exhibit reduced visual appraisal, and impaired recognition accuracy, for threat-related facial expressions. Methods: 47 psychiatrically healthy individuals completed the Peters et al. Delusions Inventory (PDI) as an index of delusion-proneness; experimental groups of high and low PDI scorers were formed on the basis of a median split. Visual scanpaths were recorded while participants viewed photographs of faces displaying anger, fear, happy, sad, and neutral expressions under a free-viewing condition. Affect recognition accuracy was assessed using a forced-choice response format. Results: The high PDI group displayed generally "extended" scanpaths, characterised by increased distances between fixations, for angry, fearful, and happy faces, but exhibited a distinctive pattern of reduced foveal attention (fewer fixations) for facial expressions of anger and fear. Impaired affect recognition accuracy in the high PDI group was most pronounced for fearful faces. Reduced recognition accuracy for fearful faces was associated with longer distances between fixations in the entire group. Conclusions: Delusion-prone individuals displayed a bias of directing attention away from threat-related faces, and a trend toward reduced recognition accuracy for fearful faces, suggesting that these individuals may be particularly sensitive to facial threat.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)19-41
    Number of pages23
    JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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