Previous studies have suggested that emotional facial expression has a facilitative effect on attention orienting by gaze cues depending on the anxiety level; however, evidence has been inconclusive. We investigated this issue by presenting fearful and neutral faces with straight, right, and left gaze as cues. Forty-six healthy participants were asked to detect a peripheral target following the cue. After the experiment, their state and trait anxiety levels were evaluated. The reaction time under the valid condition was shorter for fearful than for neutral faces only in the high state anxiety group. Regression analyses showed a positive relationship between the effect of attention orienting by fearful gaze and state anxiety. These results indicate that fearful gaze facilitates attention orienting compared to neutral gaze as participants’ state anxiety levels increase.
2009 by the PSYCHOLOGIA SOCIETY