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Trauma, PTSD, and the processing of emotional information: The utility of examining facial affect recognition and emotional context

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Title: Trauma, PTSD, and the processing of emotional information: The utility of examining facial affect recognition and emotional context
Author(s): Milanak, Melissa
Director of Research: Berenbaum, Howard
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Berenbaum, Howard
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Kramer, Art; Heller, Wendy; Hubert, Larry; Verona, Edelyn
Department / Program: Psychology
Discipline: Psychology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Trauma Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) facial affect recognition emotional processing eyetracking
Abstract: This research is aimed at understanding emotional processing, trauma experiences, and PTSD. One of the first steps taken in this program of research was to use an underutilized method of examining emotional processing, facial affect recognition. In Study 1, I created a new stimulus set of facial expressions and contextual backgrounds, the Contextual Recognition of Affect Faces Task (CRAFT), in which participants view faces displaying different facial expressions (i.e., neutral, happiness, fear, sadness, and disgust) superimposed upon emotionally valenced (i.e., happiness, fear, sadness, and disgust) and neutral images. In the process of developing the task and using it for research with non-trauma controls, I found that context matters in facial affect recognition judgments. Individuals were generally more accurate when the emotion of the face and context matched and were less accurate when they mismatched. This research is described in Chapter 2. I then used my task to examine the relation between PTSD symptoms factors (specifically EN) and sensitivity to emotional context in a sample of 90 individuals with trauma histories (Study 2). This research is described in detail in Chapter 3, in which I found that the facial affect recognition performance of individuals with high levels of EN was more strongly affected by emotional context than was the facial affect recognition performance of individuals with low levels of EN. I then conducted a study using eye tracking to explore one potential mechanism underlying the relation between contextual emotional processing and EN among trauma survivors (Study 3). This research is summarized in Chapter 4. After presenting the research conducted to date, I will end with a brief description of future directions for research.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34374
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Melissa Milanak
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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