Research has shown that high trait anxiety can alter multisensory processing of threat cues (by amplifying integration of angry faces and voices); however, it remains unknown whether differences in multisensory processing play a role in the psychological response to trauma. This study examined the relationship between multisensory emotion processing and intrusive memories over seven days following exposure to an analogue trauma in a sample of 55 healthy young adults. We used an adapted version of the trauma film paradigm, where scenes showing a car accident trauma were presented using virtual reality, rather than a conventional 2D film. Multisensory processing was assessed prior to the trauma simulation using a forced choice emotion recognition paradigm with happy, sad and angry voice-only, face-only, audiovisual congruent (face and voice expressed matching emotions) and audiovisual incongruent expressions (face and voice expressed different emotions). We found that increased accuracy in recognising anger (but not happiness and sadness) in the audiovisual condition relative to the voice- and face-only conditions was associated with more intrusions following VR trauma. Despite previous results linking trait anxiety and intrusion development, no significant influence of trait anxiety on intrusion frequency was observed. Enhanced integration of threat-related information (i.e. angry faces and voices) could lead to overly threatening appraisals of stressful life events and result in greater intrusion development after trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2043-2057
Number of pages15
JournalVirtual Reality
Issue number3
Early online date4 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2023

Data Availability Statement

All data subjected to statistical analysis in this manuscript are openly available from the University of Exeter's institutional repository at: https://doi.org/10.24378/exe.4584.


  • Emotion recognition
  • Intrusive memories
  • Multisensory processing
  • Trauma film
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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