The Effects of Oral Contraceptives on Emotion Processing
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Several studies have recently suggested that women's recognition of threat emotion facial expressions (fear, anger, and disgust) increases as progesterone levels increase, while some studies suggest that recognition of anger increases as estrogen levels increase. These studies have focused solely on endogenous sex hormone effects on emotion processing, and have examined only visual emotion recognition. This study examined whether women's ability to accurately recognize emotion through both visual and auditory means is affected by the use of oral contraceptives, a type of exogenous sex hormone medication. Participants were female first and second year university students using monocyclic oral contraceptives. Participants completed two emotion recognition tasks (one visual, one auditory) and four self-report measures at three different phases of the pill cycle; one inactive pill phase and two active pill phases. The inactive pills do not contain estrogen and progesterone; during the first active pill phase, estrogen and progesterone are present in low concentrations, and during the second active pill phase, estrogen and progesterone are present in higher concentrations. Emotion recognition scores were examined to determine if changes in emotion processing corresponded to oral contraceptive pill phase.