Original Article

Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 572-578

First online:

Accurate but Pathological: Social Anxiety and Ensemble Coding of Emotion

  • Jae-Won YangAffiliated withUniversity College, Yonsei University
  • , K. Lira YoonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Maine Email author 
  • , Sang Chul ChongAffiliated withGraduate Program in Cognitive Science, Yonsei UniversityDepartment of Psychology, Yonsei University
  • , Kyung Ja OhAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yonsei University Email author 

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The current study examined whether social anxiety is associated with a biased perception of the overall emotional impression of facial crowds. Participants were presented with facial crowds that consisted of 6, 12, or 24 faces expressing either happiness or anger, after which they were asked to judge whether the crowds were positive or negative. We estimated each participant’s point of subjective equality (PSE) and precision when judging the overall emotion of facial crowds to be negative. The participants’ social anxiety levels were negatively associated with their PSEs to perceive the overall emotion of the crowds as negative. In contrast, there was no significant relation between social anxiety and the degree of precision in the participants’ judgments of facial crowds. These findings indicate that socially anxious individuals lack the positive biases that are present in non-anxious individuals and, thereby, perceive the overall emotion of crowds more negatively compared with their less anxious counterparts.


Social anxiety Facial expressions Ensemble perception Emotion