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Honors Thesis-Unrestricted

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Elliott Beaton


Social anxiety is a disorder where people fear social interactions and is associated with physiological changes. Eye tracking studies have shown that people with social anxiety spent more time gazing at emotional faces presented on a computer screen and spent more time gazing at the eye region. There has been limited studies on tracking eye gaze in a real-life setting interacting with another person. We used a wearable eye tracker during a brief one-on-one interview about participants’ challenges faced at work or school. Along with self-report psychological measures about social anxiety and shyness, we also measured participants’ salivary cortisol as a metric for physiological stress. We hypothesized that socially anxious individuals would have higher cortisol levels and spent more time gazing at the face. However, there was no change in cortisol levels before and after the interview. In addition, socially anxious individuals had lower cortisol levels than less anxious people. Furthermore, the time spent fixating on the region of interest (ROI), which was the face, was not correlated with social anxiety, anxiety or shyness. Paradoxically, the more socially anxious participants seem to have had a lower physiological stress response than less socially anxious participants.


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