Attentional biases using the body in the crowd task: Are angry body postures detected more rapidly?

Tracy Gilbert, Rachael Martin, Mark Coulson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Research using schematic faces has consistently demonstrated attentional biases towards threatening information (angry faces), which are accentuated for individuals with higher levels of anxiety. However, research has yet to reveal whether this is the case for other nonverbal channels of communication. In the research reported here, ninety-five undergraduates completed a body in the crowd task analogous to the face in the crowd task, to examine whether attentional biases for threat existed for schematic body postures. Participants demonstrated faster detection of threat. A discrepant angry posture in a neutral crowd was identified quicker than a discrepant happy posture in a neutral crowd. This effect was pronounced for individuals with higher self-reported levels of trait anxiety. Results also demonstrated evidence of delayed disengagement from threat. Individuals were slower (i.e., more distracted) by identical crowds of angry postures rather than happy or neutral crowds and were slower to detect a discrepant neutral posture among an angry crowd than neutral among a happy crowd. These findings are the first to establish threat biases using body postures in a visual search paradigm. The results are in accordance with previous research using schematic face stimuli. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-708
Number of pages9
JournalCognition & Emotion
Issue number4
Early online date10 May 2010
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Cite this