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Title: The effects of status on the processing of social threat : the role of attention and motivation
Author: Ong, T.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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Loss of social prestige and respect from one’s community represents a fundamental threat to the social self. Additionally, low-status individuals are frequently exposed to social stressors and unprovoked hostility in their daily lives. The current research examines how social status affects the processing of threatening faces. Nine studies, in which status was experimentally manipulated, test the hypothesis that low sense of perceived status leads to enhanced processing of social threat. Study 1 provided preliminary support for this hypothesis with low-status participants showing heightened accessibility for social-threat related words in a lexical-decision task. Building from that, Study 2 found that low-status participants were quicker at recognising target faces that were embedded in a social threat context. Study 3 utilised a modified Stroop paradigm to examine interference from irrelevant emotional face background during a categorization task. Study 4 investigated motivated processing effort in a facial expression identification task. Studies 5 and 6 used a dot-probe task to examine the time-course and selective attentional biases to angry and happy faces. Study 7 further examined the bias to perceive social threat cues using a change emotion detection task in which an angry face morphed into a neutral face in a short video clip. These studies consistently showed that low-status enhanced the readiness to deploy processing effort and focus attention toward facial expressions of anger. It also highlights the heightened awareness of direct social threat cues in low-status participants. Studies 8 and 9 investigated the ability to detect subtle cues of social threat in non-Duchenne smiles. High- and low-status participants did not differ in their explicit ability to discriminate between targets displaying Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles, however, low-status participants showed a decrease in their preference to work the latter. The implications of these findings for the links between status, attention and social relations are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available