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People who are socially anxious show a strange contradictory reaction to smiling faces: they say that these faces are pleasant, yet automatically avoid them. In a study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers report that this avoidance of smiling faces is one of the reasons for the social fear that socially anxious individuals feel.
In the experiment, 32 socially anxious participants performed a simple, short joystick task 240 times. By pulling or pushing the joystick, they pulled images on the computer screen closer to themselves or pushed them away. Half of the participants pulled smiling faces closer all the time, and the other half pushed them away all the time. Afterwards, all participants were exposed to social stress: they had to record a 1-minute self-presentation video, believing that the video would later be watched and judged by others.
The researchers show that the socially anxious participants who had received approach-smiling-faces training felt less anxious after the self-presentation than those who had received avoid-smiling-faces training. These results open up new, simple and cheap possibilities to boost cognitive behavior therapy for patients.
Prof Mike Rinck,
Clinical Psychology and Behavioural Science Institute,
Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
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Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. "A simple joystick task could reduce social stress." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 22 Aug. 2013. Web.
11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/265075>
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