This study explored the relationship between gaze anxiety and the perception of facial expressions. The literature suggests that individuals experiencing Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) might have a fear of making direct eye contact, and that these individuals also demonstrate a hypervigilance towards the eye region. It was thought that this increased anxiety concerning eye contact might be related to the tendency of socially anxious individuals to mislabel emotion in the faces of onlookers. A better understanding of the cognitive biases common to SAD could lead to more efficient intervention and assessment methods. In the present study, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) and the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory-23 (SPAI-23) were used to measure social anxiety, depression, and overall distress. These forms allowed us to separate participants who reported high socially anxious and depressive traits from those in the normal range. We then compared anxiety concerning mutual eye contact as measured by the Gaze Anxiety Rating Scale (GARS) to performance on a facial recognition task. Performance was measured as recognition accuracy and average perceived intensity of onlooker expression on a scale of 1-5. A linear regression analysis revealed that higher GARS scores were related to higher perceived intensity of emotion by socially anxious individuals. An exploratory correlation analysis also revealed that higher gaze anxiety was related to lower accuracy at identifying neutral emotions and higher accuracy at identifying angry emotions. While past research has demonstrated these same biases by socially anxious individuals, gaze anxiety had not been explored extensively. Future research should investigate gaze anxiety’s role as a moderating variable.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Neer, Sandra M.


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program



Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Release Date