Acute Anxiety Impairs Accuracy in Identifying Photographed Faces

Angela S. Attwood, Ian S. Penton-Voak, A. Mike Burton, Marcus R. Munafò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated whether acutely induced anxiety modifies the ability to match photographed faces. Establishing the extent to which anxiety affects face-matching accuracy is important because of the relevance of face-matching performance to critical security-related applications. Participants (N = 28) completed the Glasgow Face Matching Test twice, once during a 20-min inhalation of medical air and once during a similar inhalation of air enriched with 7.5% CO2, which is a validated method for inducing acute anxiety. Anxiety degraded performance, but only with respect to hits, not false alarms. This finding provides further support for the dissociation between the ability to accurately identify a genuine match between faces and the ability to identify the lack of a match. Problems with the accuracy of facial identification are not resolved even when viewers are presented with a good photographic image of a face, and identification inaccuracy may be heightened when viewers are experiencing acute anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1591-1594
Number of pages4
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


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