The Evaluation of Emotional Images is Related to Individual Differences in Anxiety and Stress


It has been shown that individuals with different levels of stress and anxiety perceive emotional stimuli differently. This study builds on previous research by combining multiple affect-related individual differences, rating dimensions, and image types to gain a better understanding of how these variables interact. This study assessed how individuals with different levels of anxiety and stress evaluate the valence and arousal of threatening versus non-threatening stimuli including non-facial and facial images. Our hypothesis was that individuals with higher levels of stress and anxiety would evaluate threatening non-facial and facial images with higher levels of arousal and lower levels of valence. Participants completed two questionnaires to measure their anxiety and stress levels before performing a stimuli rating task. Two sets of stimuli were used in the rating task: non-facial images and facial stimuli (fearful/threatening versus neutral). For non-facial stimuli, no significant correlation was found between levels of anxiety and ratings for threatening images. However, the results showed a significant positive correlation between anxiety and arousal evaluation in neutral non-facial images. For facial stimuli, there was a tendency for higher anxiety and stress levels to be positively associated with higher arousal ratings of neutral facial stimuli. We also found a significant positive correlation between stress level and the arousal rating of fearful facial stimuli. Our findings may indicate that the threatening images were perceived similarly arousing to individuals across all levels of anxiety whereas the neutral images were perceived as more threatening by those with higher anxiety.

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Josh Carlson

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Maddie Voltz is a Freshman Fellow