Graduation Date

Fall 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Psychology, option Academic Research

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Amanda Hahn

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Ethan Gahtan

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Dr. Brandilynn Villarreal

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



The human face provides us with an abundant amount of social and biological information. It is important for us to be able to recognize emotions quickly and accurately, some emotions may be more important and therefore draw more of our attention than others, specifically “threat-relevant” emotions (fear, disgust, anger). To date few studies have investigated how pregnancy impacts emotion recognition abilities. These studies have shown that women have higher accuracy in encoding emotional expressions signaling threat or harm. To determine if pregnancy increases attentional bias to threat, 43 pregnant women and 45 non-pregnant women (controls) performed an emotion recognition task. Although it was predicted that pregnant women would show enhanced sensitivity to threat-relevant emotional displays, no differences were observed between pregnant women and non-pregnant controls. Women were relatively accurate at detecting anger, disgust, happiness, and surprise (all above 75% accuracy). They were relatively less adept at detecting fear and sadness (accuracy between 50% and 75%). Additional analyses did not detect any effect of pregnancy duration (in weeks) on threat-relevant emotion recognition. Our results suggest that there is no difference in emotion recognition ability between pregnant women and non-pregnant women. There was also no main effect of pregnancy status, suggesting that pregnant women were not more sensitive to displays of emotion overall. The current study does not support the prediction that the dramatic increases in both estrogen and progesterone that occur as a function of becoming pregnant increase sensitivity to threat-relevant stimuli.

Citation Style